after we’ve gone

This morning as many great grandchildren, grandchildren and great grand-dogs as possible were gathered together in a freezing Holland Park to visit a bench. The park was where our fondly remembered walked – often arm in arm – and the bench is where I sometimes sit to remember them and their inspirational ways.

Obviously their legacy is so much more than a bench but, since this morning, I’ve been thinking about what sort of legacy we all might leave.

I know that many think that our children are – quite simply – our legacy. But I don’t agree. Firstly, your children are who your children are. It’s too much pressure for them to carry your legacy aspirations. Also, for those without offspring, this is wrongly weighted.

Secondly, and more poignantly, what legacy are we leaving for our children – and our children’s children.

Either way, I’m comfortable enough with mortality to take on a deep consideration for my legacy. It needs to be considered. Never one for a last minute panic, I want to know that it’s in hand. Besides, the consequences of what we do now will certainly outlive us.

I’ve seen those children of the famous who never really find their own identity. Instead of feeling the drive or need to self-accomplish, they feel debililated and unmotivated to create for themselves. Living in a shadow is not living in a legacy.

Another common legacy pitfall is the financial legacy. And if the sense of expectancy is crippling, the pitfall is deep and dangerous.

In short, I feel that legacy is a choice (ie you can’t choose your parentage but you can your legacy). And the bench is nothing but a reminder of the legacy behind it. What these particular elders left behind was the quality of their existence, their moral and virtuous lives and the summation of their choices and actions.  End of story.

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look around you


do you ever look around you – at your friends and family – and realise that you’re the sum of all these parts?

along with the last book you read and the film you want to see.

yes, we dance to the music in our ears and laugh at those moments as they pass us by

but it’s not the draw of the ocean nor the roar of the gale which blow us off our feet…

and it’s not the ghosts in the dark nor the worries in our mind which guide us…

but it’s the very relationships we embrace,

the love that we feel

and those who surround us every day

who build our lives + fill our days in such beautiful ways.


happy new year, all.

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shiny conkers in this world

It’s that conker time of year and a good moment to confess: I have a bit of an odd relationship with conkers. You see, they don’t really make sense to me. Quite exquisite with their signature shiny richly-coloured protective coat, and yet lying there, in all their glory, on the ground… it’s so inevitable and only a matter of time before they’re ruined, squashed, pecked at, dirty and certainly never as shiny as when they first drop.

Last night I heard Dick Moore speak. I’ve watched his TedTalk on youtube of course, but it was the first time I’d been a member of his live audience. For those of you who don’t know, Dick was an English teacher, rugby coach, headmaster and housemaster. So that’s a whole career spent looking after, caring for and teaching children.

6 years ago, Barney, his third of four sons, took his own life.

Moore explained to us just how angry he had felt with himself, how he immediately took a mental health first aid course and joined the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, where he is now their lead trainer.

So, out of this hideous tragedy, he has re-emerged with a powerful purpose: to talk to young people, their parents and their teachers about mental health. To teach all of us about the important of resilience ( because this really is something we can learn and it will stand us in better stead than algebra).  It’s those warning signs, a deeper understanding and a guide as to how we can try our best to steer our emotions that might be missing from most of our children’s education.

I hung on his every word. Not only is his advice invaluable, it’s genuine, heartfelt and delivered with the type of humour of that favourite teacher. Personally, I’m particularly interested in how best to parent children in this what is an increasingly pressurised world. Spoon feeding them, over-protecting them and moving those obstacles slightly to the left isn’t going to help them at all. But it’s hard when they’re shiny, new, exposed… a bit like those conkers lying on the ground…

Take a moment to hear Dick’s words. Forward them to your head teacher. Invite him and his experience (which he so rightly states he’s now turned into a positive) into your world.  Because this ‘fundamental change in attitude’ he talks about needs to happen right now.

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the children of Beit Issie Shapiro

We’re all proud of our kids, at some point or other. It’s not a big deal, really. In fact, it would be really odd if we weren’t ever proud of them. Some achieve great things, some less great but feel equally momentous. Either way, they are our kids and we find ourselves constantly marvelling at the way in which they navigate their way through life.

However, this blog post is not one of those: I’m so proud of my daughter and how she decided she wanted to get involved with those less fortunate. Certainly Not. What is this world if we don’t weigh in and support worthy causes – as well as help the blind man cross the road, dish up food for the hungry etc?

This blog post is about them; those children she and I met at Beit Issie Shapiro, while recently travelling around Israel. Adorable, endearing, courageous children who are fighting every day to take that one little step forward. To walk, to talk, to eat, to perhaps even express their thoughts; all those actions we take for granted are indeed a fight for them.

We toured the campus and marvelled at the excellent care and pioneering work the charity is carrying out. From the early intervention centre (from the age of 6 months) to aged 12 at the special education school, these children are given the best possible attention with the most advanced therapies possible.

Sophie + Linoi

Sophie spent time with Linoi that morning. Linoi is 12 years old and first arrived at the centre aged 6 unable to walk or talk. She was thrilled that Sophie was visiting and, after a few hugs and high 5s, they sat down together to enjoy a music class. It wasn’t long before Linoi was persuaded to dance and it was clear that the whole room of children with disabilities were having a ball. The professional team of caregivers and therapists (in most cases one-on-one) also appeared to be having the time of their lives, it seemed. Pure joy buzzed around the room and filled the centre. I caught Sophie’s eye and we read each other’s minds. What we had braced ourselves for: a tough morning of sorrow and pity – was utterly misjudged. The team at Beit Issie Shapiro and their dignified children were in fact showing us how they feel about changing attitudes in our respective communities and how we should view and regard anyone with any disability. Put simply, this organisation is breaking down those barriers to full social integration – hence the reason we were sitting there with them enjoying their fun.

And I’d like to think we can do more than simply observe. My girl has decided to train for a swimathon so that she can raise enough funds for the charity to purchase a new iPad and its accessories and to cover the cost of its therapeutic and recreational use by one child for one year (including work hours of therapists with the child).

The detour to Beit Issie Shapiro had always been the plan. But what you can’t plan is how you will feel afterwards. How much it has an effect on you and how much it makes you STOP and think and raise your hand to help. And that’s what makes me proud of her.

Please do support Sophie in her mission.

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