Monthly Archives: October 2013

James Naughtie in my bathroom

‘I am a wheelchair user’ – well that is what I say when I am phoning places to enquire about their access. Actually my best friend is a tiny electric blue mobility scooter who has no name but accompanies me everywhere.

She lives in the back of my car (and her twin lives in my garage). The car has a hoist and if ever there was a man magnet this is it. Grown men and little boys line up – fascinated by the mechanics of the whole thing. I prefer it when the girls are intrigued and want to see how it all works – engineering is not just for boys after all (but that’s another story).

My scooter is my legs and most of the time we tolerate the able-bodied world and cope with the challenges that are thrown in our way.  However there are certain times when we have loads of fun. There are particular venues that look after us extremely well and one of these is Cheltenham Literary Festival. Like most festivals it pops up on open land and most of the events are in large canvas tents – all very accessible, and the marvellous organisers often give us the front seats and we are always very near the action!

To have a good sight-line is wonderful but it does mean that ladies of a certain age, intelligence, style and sophistication (yes, I am referring to myself here) are suddenly reduced to quivering wrecks as they get close enough to their idols to touch them!  Having said that, I didn’t get too starstruck when I chatted to James Naughtie last year, after all he is in my bathroom and bedroom as I get showered and dressed pretty much every day!

I find it fascinating, we behave like we know these people….because in a funny sort of way we do, especially with the advent of social media interaction, but they do not know us from Adam! It can make for interesting conversation both on and offline.  Pleased to tweet you Mr Naughtie…..

So once again my trusty scooter and I set off for Cheltenham Spa wondering just how close we’ll get to the stage, and which interesting people we’ll chat to this year.  We’ll report back, and just so you know, we make serious judgements about people depending on how well they relate to us. After all, it is only my legs that don’t work………

On the day job, and butterflies

‘So someone asked me yesterday what exactly is a Critical Friend?  What do you actually do?  So I thought it was time enlighten you….’

Some people are driven to develop all their talents and abilities; being acceptable isn’t good enough.

Others hate getting decisions wrong and want to weigh the options carefully.

Some know what they want to do but cannot plot the course to make it happen or work out how to engage the people they need to help.

And then there are the people who spend their lives developing others and have no time for themselves.

Believe it or not, all of these people need a critical friend.

These are people who are good at what they do and often know so much they are overwhelmed by their options. They are often at the top of their tree but have no-one to turn to for support or advice. They need a sounding-board.

These are people who get very little “me” time or focus.

These are people who I encourage to step outside the protective walls of their lives and look back in from the outside.

And then I help them. I create an atmosphere in which they know that they are totally accepted; they have nothing to prove and nothing to be embarrassed about. They can revert to being the little boy who needs some appreciation or the teenage girl who is frightened of making a fool of herself. They can unpick the happenings that have caused them concern; they can craft ways of dealing with upcoming events. They can rehearse their arguments and evaluate the consequences.

I ask questions; lots of them. I encourage people to pause and look at events or decisions objectively and from every angle. There is no rush – the important thing is to get it right. Sometimes we go back to something many times until the person knows they have got the right solution for them (not for me and not for anyone else, the decision must be right for them).

I draw on my experience and knowledge, my years as a top executive.  I become the friend who will tell the truth; who asks the questions but does not judge you by the answers; who is interested in the problem and respects you for wanting to develop your thinking. I am the friend who will celebrate the great things that you do and enjoy them with you.

In the critical cocoon of my friendship, many a clumsy hungry caterpillar has turned into a beautiful breathtaking butterfly….. sounds appealing?  Perhaps we should talk? 001234 273644 or 07968 822275 – your first consultation is a gift from me.


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On Excitement

I am packing to go to the Cheltenham Literary Festival. I have been before so know what to expect and how wet I will get if it rains. However the location is great; the arrangements are slick; and there are some great watering holes to escape to when the heavens open, so all will be well.


And here I am with a fist full of tickets thinking about the pleasures ahead of me. These twelve tickets in my hot little hand allow me to wallow in the subjects that I most enjoy for four marvellously precious  literary days.

So what have I got?

HistoryEdward Stourton who is as good on paper as he is on

Radio 4; and then more intimate stuff in a two hander between John Julius Norwich and Patricia Hodge based on his mother Lady Diana Cooper’s letters.

Contemporary religion – a discussion about the influences that have formed “The New Boys” AKA the new Pope, the new Archbishop of Canterbury and the new Chief Rabbi and what should be on their agenda. That will throw up lots of issues of social justice but if that isn’t enough, there is a panel discussion on Martin Luther King and American Civil Rights to keep me going.

Personal courageAndrew Marr talking to a live audience but confined by the immobility of his left hand from his usual hand flapping enthusiasm; and Alastair Campbell and Anne Robinson speaking about their addictions and depression.

Political discussion – there will be a panel “Reforming Government” chaired by the peerless Sue Macgregor; and Alan Johnson talking about his life: postman, trade unionist, politician and Home Secretary and maybe even his ambitions to be a rock star! And if that were not enough, Nick Robinson will be telling anecdotes of broadcasting politics.

Laughter will come from being with Julian Clary and John Bishop – most definitely the best medicine.

fishI am bound to come home with an empty wallet but with a pile of signed books.  I will have spoken to some of these incredible personalities and will no doubt be totally exhausted from all the  intellectual cut and thrust.  Ultimately, I’ll be one happy lady – after all what more could a girl want? Except to ask that it doesn’t rain! Where’s national treasure Michael Fish when you need him?  And where did I put that umbrella?

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On being appreciated

I have just taken a lovely phone call. I had hoped it would be my ISP to tell me why my email was down but it turned out to be a trustee from the Road Victims Trust. I have done a bit of work for them in the last couple of weeks and the kind gentleman on the end of the phone wanted to tell me the outcome and thank me for my input, which was lovely.  But it was more than that. He said some really nice things about the importance of my contribution and my professionalism, and that made my day.


I spend my life trying to persuade my clients to hear the good things that are said about them and more importantly to savour them.  Often  people seem to be expecting to hear criticism because they are never convinced that what they do is good enough. Today I listened and I heard.  It was lovely for me to be appreciated, and I most definitely savoured the moment.

The Road Victims Trust, a bunch of highly motivated, inspiring people had flattered me by asking me to help them do something. They could have asked anyone but they didn’t, they asked me which was a real compliment and it has been a pleasure to work with such an amazing charity.

If you haven’t come across them, you are fortunate.  The charity started from nothing twenty years ago in Bedfordshire when a few people who had lost family members in the sudden and unexpected tragedy of road traffic accidents decided survivors needed support. The charity now also covers Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire too.

There are hundreds of accidents a year when innocent victims are killed or maimed and the very special volunteers from the Trust support people who have either experienced the sudden death of a loved one or the horror of being involved in a fatal or serious road collision. The work also encompasses support during the legal processes that follow in the wake of the collision.

VolunteerCentreThe volunteers are extraordinary people and a privilege to be around. I hope they feel appreciated.  And while I’m on the subject, if you’ve ever considered being a volunteer yourself, in Bedfordshire you can get in touch with The Volunteer Centre who are a mine of information and who will most definitely appreciate your help.  There are many volunteering opportunities to choose from and almost as many reasons why people become volunteers:

  • meet new friends
  • learn new skills
  • do something different
  • give something back to the community
  • enhance your CV
  • get work experience
  • improve your self confidence
  • use your skills and experience
  • develop new interests
  • gain satisfaction
  • fill spare time
  • support a specific cause
  • enjoy yourself and have fun

And I’ll close with a final thought – a little appreciation really does go a long long way – I’m still on cloud nine after my phone call – why don’t you share the love and tell someone you appreciate them today!


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