Wednesday, 29 February 2012


One way in which I like to do my bit is to help out at the local school with the 'mock' interviews. These are to help kids who will soon be leaving school to enter the world of work and to provide some practice to prepare them for their first job interview.

The interviewees have to fill out a mock application form giving details of their hobbies, interests, skills, exam successes, sporting prowess and so on. Along with fifty or so other people, I then ask them a few questions, hopefully putting them at ease, after which I give them some verbal and written feedback on how well they did - always finishing with a postitive of course.

With the mock interviews being imminent, I was minded to find out some of the worst questions which adults have been asked at interview. Here are a few examples which were actually asked in interviews, some by big-name companies - how would you answer them?

If you were a carousel, what type of music would you play?

If you were a vegetable, what would you be?

Why do you think manhole covers are round?

If you were a brick in a wall which brick would you be and why?

What kind of animal are you most like?

Needless to say, I shan't be asking any of these questions.

Sunday, 26 February 2012


Many years ago I was sent on a self-improvement course which no doubt cost my employers a hefty sum of money. I enjoyed the course a great deal and came away from it with an enhanced life plan in the form of a personal motto.

I thought I might save you some money by telling you the secret of how to do this for yourselves. This is how it goes...

First think of an area of your life which you feel could do with improvement. Perhaps you think that you are not assertive enough or that you feel that you are too egocentric and don't pay enough attention to your family members or work colleagues. In my case I wanted to improve my self-esteem.

Secondly, write down two utterly extreme statements about your theme which express totally opposite opinions. For instance if we take the egocentricity example above you might write down

- I am only interested in myself and intend to take no notice of anyone around me in future (Top of the list)
- I shall devote the rest of my life to other people's concerns and ignore my own needs completely (Bottom of the list)

Now write down other phrases which fall somewhere between these two extreme statements but do this completely at random. So you might write:
- I shall pay attention to the wishes of family members in future but no-one else
- I shall devote one day a week to my own needs and spend the other six caring about others
- I shall spend time each weekend working for a charity
etc. etc.
Keep writing these phrases down until you have at least 30 of them.

When you feel you have exhausted the topic, put the phrases in order between the two extremes i.e. the most self-centred towards the top and the most selfless towards the bottom.

Once you have got them all in order look at the phrases in the middle of the list and choose your motto.

My own self-esteem one turned out to be
'I like to receive praise for what I do but I can cope when I don't get it.'

It's always worked for me.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012


I just got back from a few days in Cornwall. It's a curious place. Although it's the southern-most English county, the locals call it 'Kernow' and ask holidaymakers if they've come down from England.

Anyway, we were sitting having drinks in a bar when I became aware of a family group sitting at a table over to my right. There was Mum, Dad and a small troublesome tornado called 'Bruno'. My guess is that Bruno was about 5 years old.

He was a real handful and kept tearing round the place trying to find as many ways as possible to avoid doing anything which his parents suggested.

Whilst my wife and I quietly sipped our drinks, the family's food arrived and Bruno settled down on his chair to scoff his bowl of chips. I was very amused by the conversation which followed.

Using a sort of 'Where do babies come from?' voice, Bruno asked 'Why do you drink wine Mummy?'.

His mother gazed at him with eyes full of motherly love and replied 'I drink wine because of you darling'.

My guess is she would need about three bottles a day.

Sunday, 19 February 2012


I doubt there are many people who I haven't told that I will shortly become a Grandfather. Just three months to go now.

There have been two main issues. One was keeping my wife out of baby shops or at least stopping her from buying all their stock if she did visit.

The second issue is what it's name will be. Obviously this isn't our decision to make but happily, we have been included in the decision process. I am sworn to secrecy as to the hot runners at the moment but it set me to thinking about favoured names in past years.

There is an excellent website which provides this information and my first port of call was to check out how popular my own name was way back when. I began by checking where 'Anthony' came in the top ten for my birth year. It didn't. Nor was it in the top twenty, thirty or forty. Well thanks Mum and Dad, you called me by the 44th favourite name of the year. What was wrong with 'James', which was first in the list?

Then I checked my brother's name, Michael. Here it is - 4th most popular for the year. Not 44th - FOURTH. Not that I'm jealous of course.

Then it dawned on me. No doubt my parents were just trying to be a bit different. They probably gave me a less popular first name but chose my second name from the top ten...let's see 'Peter' is...38th. Ah well.

The point is - whatever my grandchild's name is he or she will be greatly loved and that's what matters - as my parents surely realised.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012


This morning was chilly and frosty. As I approached my Mini Cooper S Diesel, I pressed the remote unlock on my key fob and then climbed in and switched on the heated seat control. I plugged in my USB memory stick, pressed the 'start' button and drove off to the sound of Adele singing 'Make you feel my love'.

Rewind to a similarly chilly and frosty morning thirty three years ago. I walk up to the door of my Fiat 128 saloon, put the key in the door and unlock it. It being chilly, I pull out the 'choke' button to make the fuel richer while the engine warms up. I must remember to push it in later to save petrol.

I put the key into the ignition and turn it. The engine starts. I root around in my cassette box and choose a tape by Blondie. I push it into the slot and rewind the tape to the beginning. Next I open the ash tray in readiness, pull out a cigarette, for I was a smoker back then, and use the lighter on the dashboard to light it.

I drive off to the sound of Blondie singing 'Heart of Glass' as the inside of the car slowly fills with cigarette smoke.

How times have changed.

Sunday, 12 February 2012


Do you remember learning to read? At first, no doubt, you read aloud but were soon urged to internalise the process and read to yourself. It's a good thing that we have this ability. Just think what it would be like on the morning train for instance, with everyone in the carriage reading their newspapers out loud.

Reading a book is one of the greatest pleasures in life but reading aloud can be very rewarding too. I well remember, many years ago, reading to my daughter to send her off to sleep and I so miss that experience. It was an absolute joy.

Luckily help is at hand for I am soon to become a grandfather and plan to read to my grandchild at the earliest opportunity.

One final tip about reading aloud. If you write a letter to someone, or compose a speech, or simply write for the love of writing as I am doing here, try reading it aloud to yourself. You will be surprised how this can help to 'get it right'.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012


Apparently there is a new ladies shoe which is the talk of the town and yet it isn't even in production yet.

Let us try to discover why these shoes will be a must-buy item for women next year.

It's not the price because they won't be cheap. Rumour has it that they will cost at least £75 a pair.

It's not their looks because in my humble opinion they look a bit silly. I suppose that beauty is in the eye of the beholder but for me the concave heel is not a good-looking feature.

It's surely not their name - the 'Antelope' shoe. "I'm just off to put on my Antelopes dear". Not exactly cool is it?

It's not their comfort because they are designed to be uncomfortable. How? Because...

...they are unstable. The heel is deliberately designed to move so that it causes the wearer to totter about.

So why will these shoes sell well?

The answer is that because the wearer feels unsafe, they will have to put a lot of effort into keeping their balance. Using up that effort will, so they claim, cause the wearer to drop a dress size if they wear them for a month.

So the only downside seems to be that after a few months, you may die of anorexia. That's killer heels for you.

Sunday, 5 February 2012


I have a word of advice for you. Just one word. Breathe.

Yes, yes, I am aware that we do this all the time without even thinking about it and that's just the point. We don't think about it. Maybe we should.

You know those times when you're stuck for ideas. Perhaps you're trying to compose a letter, plan a project, or even simply trying to decide what to cook for supper. Well help is at hand - or in this case mouth and nose.

Try a few simple breathing exercises. I used to do this during my Pilates class and found it great for clearing out the lungs of stale air and topping up on the fresh stuff.

Breathe in while counting to five. Hold your breath for a count of twenty. Now breathe out for a count of ten. Repeat this at least three times. Ideally the air which you inhale should be fresh so if you aren't lolling on a beach somewhere, maybe you could stick your head out of the window and give the neighbours a laugh.

Hopefully, you will soon feel inspired - which of course comes from the Latin verb spirare which means to breathe.

Drop me a line to let me know how you get on - preferably by air mail.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012


It is increasingly the case that a stroll through our city streets in the early hours of a Saturday or Sunday morning will reveal humanity at its worst with drunken fights taking place or simply drunks wandering helplessly about in a forlorn attempt to get themselves home.

The drunken women are generally the most pathetic cases as they stumble round often missing a shoe or are found slumped on pavements with their dress in disarray and handbags or other valuables in plain view for any passing thief to grab.

No doubt those wonderful people who chose to become paramedics did not expect to finish up as bus conductors where all the passengers are drunks but many of them find themselves in that situation.

Many of our cities run 'booze bus' services to deal with the weekend revellers who end up 'paramedic paralytic' being sat down in the ambulance, draped with towels and then with a supermarket carrier hung round their necks to vomit into. They then resemble horses being fed with nose bags having lost all the dignity which they possessed when they left home all smartly dressed earlier in the evening.

So all in all this is a wonderful service which the health service provide but isn't it a bit sad that such a service is needed in order to look after the drunks in our society?