Smells like team spirit

© Michael Lavine

For our international readers, the UK is having a mirror held up to its principles and practises … revealing the blemishes. It is to this we refer.

Crossing Cricket’s boundaries has been as dismal as illuminating. Since Azeem Rafiq captured the vascular drainage of racism implicit to the Yorkshire dressing room [daresay it’s not the only county whose cricket club is thus mired], his eloquence has thrown open windows ventilating the snarling state of banter.

The cricket club has acknowledged Rafiq was the victim of racial harrassment.

Interviewed on the Today programme about the painful experiences Rafiq revealed, Monty Panesar championed his fellow cricketer’s ‘determined voice to be heard’.

Educating teenagers on the difference between micro-aggression and banter is important in light that “the Dressing Room is a great place to be … which comes under team spirit”.

Aye: and there’s the rub. There’s nothing soft about sensitivity to others’ feelings. Insulting one another in virtue of not knowing how to express admiration seems intellectually, morally and emotionally deficient and rather tragic. … Would that there were an expert in strengthening self-awareness and spirit of empathy; in fortifying emotional resilience.

Yet there’s hope this tipping point will yield more than a cascade of recrimination.

This is a miraculous opportunity for us all to examine the cause of our contempt for things beyond our ken and spring-clean values and principles by which we live. No?

With the lights out, it’s less dangerous
Here we are now, entertain us
I feel stupid and contagious
Here we are now, entertain us
A mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido
A denial, a denial, a denial, a denial, a denial
A denial, a denial, a denial, a denial

Songwriters: Chris Novoselic / David Grohl / Kurt Cobain Smells Like Teen Spirit lyrics © BMG Rights Management, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

Madeleine Baird Materials: expert in strengthening self-awareness and the spirit of empathy.

Poetry in motion


Full disclosure. Don’t have a telly, never seen Strictly Come Dancing : often walk across Tottenham Marshes.

Rose & Giovanni have risen up through audible visibility in virtue their recent performance on #Strictly included moves danced in silence, reflecting Rose Ayling-Ellis’ sound world. Watch them swoon here.

Giovanni Rose, a seventeen year old poet has just won The Foyles Young Poet of the year Award for his Welcome to Tottenham, a powerful reflection of what it means to be young, gifted, black and trying to survive in an ethnically diverse patch of North London. Watch him perform it here

It seems more than a co-incidence of name that three people are beamed to the forefront of consciousness at the same moment. Sometimes it seems the universe spins in such a way as to compel us to Listen.

Both dancers and poet express their message quietly which seems more powerful than bellowing. In such explosive times as these, it’s wonderful to remember volume holds less importance than meaning and it is often the suasive approach that endures.

Throwing another Christian to the lions?


Have you ever seen a sword’n’sandals film: one depicting the ancient world dripping in blood and parched of moral noblesse?

Almost fainting as intellectual and physical response to a depiction of how Romans would throw another Christian to the lions*, this depleting image has been blinding my view of the road while cycling round Town in recent months.

Why? It is how road-parked cars appear to my mind in light of the exponential increase – blizzard proportions – of shattered glass lying on the road beside where once the driver’s window existed. Their plangent exposure to ferocious attack defies belief.

I don’t know what these violent grabbers seek: it seems puzzling to suppose anyone leaves a thing of immediate financial value in their vehicle. It must be something else then that motivates a night’s exercise of smashing their way in to cars along an entire length of street. But what?

This, albeit a long way round, suggests that were understanding the emotions promoted up the academic hierarchy, there’d be fewer destructive souls in our midst.

It is a ubiquitous characteristic among those who carry out criminal acts not to reflect on their victims nor on the impact of their crimes as it entails examining their own motivations which, naturally, are unpalatable.

Famished inner emptiness is a condition marvellously simple to treat.

Empathy classes are beginning to ventilate some curricula. Teaching children how to stretch their minds to understand how their actions impact others … how reality exists beyond themselves … is an extremely sound start in addressing all kinds of social ill, crime being the most obvious.

By starving voracious minds of the chance to cultivate compassion and empathy, are we not continuing to throw Christians to the lions?

* For them as find this kind of thing to their taste, the wondrous Senhouse Museum in Maryport, Cumbria was where I saw it. (Simply couldn’t face illustrating this Blogos with lions gnawing through their supper. Image comes from Psychology Today)

earth … heart … hear


Listening to words woven from evolving meaning: is it possible to arrive at heart from earth merely by switching the order of characters and still have an ear at its centre?

© Steve Fallon …………………………………………………………………………… A few steep Munros

The Conference of those Parties who signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1994, gathering in Glasgow at the end of this month, has a steep Monro to climb. Not only must it avoid platitudes of woe but present a practical, achievable plan all can grasp as the obvious way to evolve how each of us lives.

From Copenhagen’s gathering in 2009, we took the notion that if status were uncoupled from consumption, having a lot of stuff would be a sign not of wealth but bankruptcy. There seemed excitement that peak oil would influence a kinder maturity shaping better, less cluttered ways of living. But did it? Did it, hell.

Though understandable, it seems rigid to cling to the original title: CoP26 should theoretically be 27 (years after 1994) and this choice to disregard a flexible reality is troubling. What else will be conveniently ignored? Perhaps this blindfold could be termed eclimat?

Eclimat: a tendancy to dodge the truth of what stares us in the face.

In a world where we’re told the first shall be last and the last first, will switching the order of characters who lead and legislate our lives be sufficient to persuade? If there’s no ear at our own eccentric centre, what hope is there moral, intellectual and emotional duty will be embraced?

CoP26 : 31.x.21 – 12.xi.21 … Halloween to beyond Rememberance

As a wee aside, listening to William Shatner’s exquisitely affecting visceral flow of euphoria last week immediately following his egress from the Blue Origin capsule was a marvellous manifesto to value what we have while we have it. The planet’s fragility stares us in the face.

To wit, …

© Jonas Classon Night Hunter……………………………………………………………. A Swedish great grey Owl, allegedly

A Bird Photographer of the Year finalist with this image, we say grattis, Jonas Classon.

But what competition judges appear to have missed – as it simply wasn’t mentioned – is that a witch has trapped a person inside an Owl in ironic punishment for making his entire family homeless.

Do you see it: the thinking going on behind its eyes? That’s not an avian expression, nor are those slightly worse-for-wear eye-whites (who knew birds had white sclera?). That is a 37-year-old with a gambling addiction who’s just bet his house on the toss of a coin and lost. It seems he’s clenching his fist in dratted vexation at both his loss and transformation into a bird-who-preys by a passing, broomsticked witch.

Doubtless, ornithologists will howl in complaint of such anthropomorphizing: yet doesn’t this seem an avian wonder? Or, it is a clear demonstration of there being one life force to which all living creatures are subject? The possessor of this faculty – let’s call it consciousness – processes information pertinent to its needs, experiences environmental alterations and perceives with all five senses humans enjoy plus those we don’t.

To wit, let’s celebrate the nobility of existence in forms-beyond-number and ways-beyond-understanding.

Sloely does it

© Spirits Beacon Wait til they’ve gorn black before tweeking from stems

Up in North London where slugs have had a bonza year but the voles seem few and far between, it’s been a mixed nosebag, too, for the early risers. Too late for Haylage, Hay’s been lumped rather than baled for some reason and mounds lounge carelessly for anyone to settle into for a read in the rising sun.*

Unlike Elderflowers whose pollen benefits from a full day’s sun before picking, elderberries, redcurrants and cherries are most succulent after a drench by dew and before the sun has winked, warming their fruity boughs.

A complete washout for Blackberries; have you noticed? Ush. No bramble jelly this year alas. However … and this is the point … sloes are having something of prodigal return to favour. Previous couple of years were somewhat lean. But, but, but: suddenly great fat blackthorn berries burst out in the joy of last week’s Indian Summer.

With so much gristle on our plates with narry a crust to mask the grinding nature of getting through the next six months, it is really heartening to be reminded that so long as we can just hang in there, there’s hope for better. We can and will get through the testing times ahead. Sloes can do it: so can we.

* But this morning was the start of what is going to be a long, long … long haul to careless, cheerful Spring 2022. Dank and howling, crackling leaves dropped by age, crispend by warmth are soggy markers, reminding one that if we are to persist through and vanquish what lies ahead, compassion is going to be a strong weapon in the armoury of endurance. Remember: each thing gives birth to itself. Kindness builds muscles for kindness.

Emmancipating Tennis Stars

© WTA ….. Emma Raducanu, five minutes ago: before her future began

On a scale of 1 – 10, how sp-Lendidly happy is it Emma Raducanu won the second Grand Slam event in which she played? That’d be a 42?

Fresh as a daisy and fragrant as mimosa, the potential for her life to blossom makes it all the more important she’s given a chance to live privately. Remember when the teenage Rafa Nadal sat bouncing with excitement between the very retired Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe as the three of them were being interviewed at Queens Club some time in the v. early Noughties? And you just knew glittering prizes were destined for the smiling Mallorcan yet to win his first major tournement?

Well, the same could be said for the graceful 18-year old whose Bromley tennis development is the shot in the arm the country needs right now.

Wouldn’t be gorgeous if she were shielded from all the social mediocrity which seems to demolish so much of what is never really given a chance? By freeing herself from the emotional baggage which can journey alongside players in all fields, she will grow within the resilience she’ll need for her long, long … long career.

We hope this emancipated, hard-working tennis player continues developing emotional intelligence along with her game, winning all she blooming well deserves.


It is meaningful this shining, hopeful Hope won her first Title at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens on the day the world was paying attention to Manhattan, the Pentagon and Shanksville Field. Reshaping history, smoothing its edges. It shows dark evapourates in Light.

Perhaps they’ll listen now?

Vincent van Gogh’s heart-breaking metaphor expressed in 1889

The infinitely empathic Don McLean will perform at the Veteran’s Memorial Park in Sierra Vista, Arizona on Eleventh September, the twentieth Anniversary humanity’s insanity reached that decade’s nadir.

It is fifty years since in Vincent, he distilled the idea of Listening (the skill we’ve been teaching since 1996 along with all its associated explicative reverberations ) as a thing that might never happen: could never happen.

Glum news for us: glum for us all if it means we shut off flowing through eachothers’ lives with understanding, kindness and grace.

When blind focus meets deaf certainty, it is a moment to pause, breathe and consider if greater compassion might not be more productive than moulding others to our will in a forge of fury. A snowflake in the avalanche of Afghan woe is that the everlasting, starless night shrouding their future could entomb more than hope. #Talibanished from Freedom.

Starry Night, a surprisingly small canvas on view at MoMA, NY

Now, I think I know what you tried to say to me
How you suffered for your sanity
How you tried to set them free
They would not listen, they’re not listening still
Perhaps they never will

Vincent: © Don McLean, Songs Of Universal Inc., Benny Bird Co. Inc.



In 2015, a question was posed “so, if you’re so sensitive to the pulse of change, what’s the next shift in the focus of human relations?”

The answer surprised us both. Kindness, I said.

We were sitting in the basement café of the RSA. The BBC’s Religious Affairs correspondent, Caroline Wyatt was at another table in a thrillingly vivid cerise mac which would date the meeting at around 2015.

Since then, it has been something of a slow burn and a matter of impatient finger thrumming in anticipation of its rise up agenda items.

But it seems we’re approaching that happy moment when promoting acts of kindness is understood as a universal good, available to all. I don’t mean deliberate action designed to go out of the way to be kind to one another. I mean when the default setting of kindness informs the nature of actions.

Action designed to benefit others necessarily benefits the doer. It generates a sense of well-being, calms the viscera and extends agapé. The glorious validation that comes from being meaningfully useful rolls in, wave upon wave, when we give our higher selves license to spill generosity of spirit over our rim.

I say that but offer no scientific proof: yet.

Together with University of Sussex, the BBC’s All in the Mind is launching The Kindness Test “to explore our everyday experiences of kindness in different settings.”

Starting: that’s the hardest moment of anything as it requires peak energy. Starting the process to lift intentions over the hump of prudence (self interest) isn’t nearly as heavy a thing as one might think. And the benefits … well, you know them already and that they kick in with immediate effect.

Nourishing virtues like the capacity for kindness – thankfully limitless in us all – it’ll be so interesting to listen to how it impacts your mood, emotional resilience, well-being and vitality generally. Happily, business leaders are beginning to recognize the degree of power which comes if they have the courage to be kind.

Scroll back through these pages to search out plangent howls for compassionate Kindfulness: there are a few.

Materials of life


It comes as an exhaustive relief that making the voyage to Mars is not only my Daisy List*.

David Bowman‘s image of a Damsel Fly

[Written weeks ago under a baby blue sky, no vapour trails but cartoon clouds on the warmest day of the year.]

Sitting by a well stocked stretch of water with bees bobbing into every blackberry bud and the blue haze of damsel- & dragonflys billowing with each turn of a page, birds engaging in genial chatter and, too early in the day to bother much about anything, the geese resisting all inclination to honk their presence. This deep, restorative peace is almost overwhelming.

Yet, Life teams and pulses all around.

Contrast the earnestly eerie, empty silence of Mars?


NASA’s images which its roving lander Perseverance wafts across the 217 million miles separating the planets in 19 minutes (tiens, eh ben dit donc), make me weep.

Life, teaming gush of unending cascade, seems tangibly absent in desolation of shattering void.

If you squint amid the Red Planet’s ochre vibrations, are you also shaken by what absence-of-life looks like? No blue sky, no pulsing verdance, neither dawns nor dusks, never blossoms in blooms or birds in song. Nor can imagination, kindness, joy or wonder penetrate the dense, unyielding vacuum.

Exploration is in our DNA, the bold will go and stretch further filigrees of enquiry. Thank goodness their bravery allows me to remain here to gaze through the green at crushingly exquisite glory of this planet.

It makes me so thankful for the barely credible co-incidence that perfect distance from our star enables dark matter to manifest itself materially as Life: by which I mean consciousness.

* dismal expression of Bucket List more cheerfully captured as Daisy List.