Monday, 30 September 2013

Giving up coffee

I recently agreed to give up coffee on the advice of a trusted health practitioner who informed me that it's poison to the body and our kidneys just can't deal effectively with the toxins (chemicals) in coffee, including decaffeinated. I had been used to at least one cup of strong black 'proper' coffee a day and most days it would be two large mug-sized drinks. I certainly wasn't looking forward to forgoing my coffee but, in truth, it wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be; at least initially. The first, say, five days I suffered with a headache and pains in my legs. These, of course, were the withdrawal symptoms which I was fully prepared for. Once these had passed I was surprised at how relatively easily I had given up this so-called poison.

But then I began to miss it dreadfully - not only the actual taste but everything associated with a cup of coffee. It had always been something that I had looked forward to mid-morning - that daily treat - the savouring of it and that wonderful aroma. I also drink tea (mainly Earl Grey) but found that I needed to vary it with herbal and fruit teas, but they are all so 'thin' in comparison to coffee and, although refreshing, not nearly as satisfying. I tried "Barley Cup", a coffee substitute made from  roasted barley, rye and chicory but, even made with two heaped teaspoonsful, this is a weak-tasting coffee imitation and not something to my taste.

As I say, it wasn't just the taste of coffee. When out and about with family, "stopping somewhere for a coffee" was a given, even a ritual, rather than a suggestion that needed agreement. And on our regular trips to Portugal to visit our daughter, I so looked forward to my daily cup of delicious Portuguese coffee.

Stopping for a cup of black or herbal/fruit tea is just not the same. The anticipation and enjoyment of going into a coffee shop has gone. On the plus side of things, I no longer feel stressed except, ironically, when I'm stressed about not allowing myself a coffee. Will I continue with this self-imposed deprivation? Just a little bit longer...

Friday, 27 September 2013

A reminder about positive thinking

Two weeks ago I attended 'Learning Live' the annual conference for members of the Learning and Performance Institute. Over the course of the day I sat in on three seminars, one of which was delivered by Andy Whittaker on 'The Art of Being Brilliant'.

In a nutshell, the session was all about dealing with issues in a positive way and choosing to be positive. That's easy to say but not so easy to put into practice. Andy's tip is to tell yourself that you can do anything for 4 minutes, which includes making yourself think positive things for that short period. The amazing thing is that it works for just about any situation. For those of us that are procrastinators (myself included), doing the thing you've been putting off  for just 4 minutes makes it seem eminently achievable. It's a pain-free way of getting started and those 4 minutes will inevitably extend to more before you've even noticed.

If you're having a bad day, get into the habit of forcing yourself to think of something that is positive about the day or the situation and just be in the best possible mood for 4 minutes. Ask yourself, "what would the very best version of me do right now? How would the very best version of me react to this situation?" Another trick is to smile while you're thinking about it.

Lastly, Andy urged us to understand the impact we have on others. Nobody likes being around pessimistic or complaining people. Our negativity can trigger negative feelings and reactions in others. So make an effort to have a positive impact when you meet and relate to people and help them feel good too.

To follow Andy on Twitter: @artofbrillandyw

Thursday, 26 September 2013

The thing about September

September’s a strange, uncertain month. I find myself waiting for the summer to end and for the autumn to start, in a kind of limbo. The house is cold inside but outside it’s invariably still warm. Washing hung on the line early in the morning is still damp by late afternoon. I notice how the evenings are drawing in preparing us for the colder, darker months ahead. I persist in wearing my summer clothes but I feel chilly and resort to adding a cardigan. A glass of white wine in the garden in the early evening feels somehow too cold and thin; red seems more palatable. Salad days are fading and are beginning to give way to hot meals eaten earlier in the evening. The grapes on the vine are desperately trying to ripen before the last of the summer warmth disappears. Everything seems to be slowing down. The last of the summer roses are hanging on trying to convince us that summer’s not yet ended, but the few yellowing leaves on the trees and shrubs have a different opinion. My 'flip flops' are swapped for slippers: the summer duvet for a heavier one. Crane flies - "daddy long legs" - keep appearing indoors and spiders are beginning to make their way into the house looking for a mate. Meanwhile, I’m planning on going conker hunting this weekend to keep them away.Yes, it really does work.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The power of music

The other day I was watching a movie and it crossed my mind, yet again, that without the background music that accompanies so much of the drama we watch on television and in the cinema, the experience would not be nearly as emotive or powerful.

Imagine watching a film all the way through with no music in it. I can't recall ever having seen one - even the silent movies have music. It's almost as if the producers feel they have to stimulate our emotions and reactions through music. But what about books? They can be immensely moving and powerful simply through the words written on the page. So why then can a film not achieve that same result without music? If words alone can stimulate our imagination, why do we need music to create the suspense in, say, a murder scene? After all, everyday life doesn't have a musical backdrop.

But I love the way music stirs our emotions. My favourite film of all time is "Out of Africa" and it's probably because I adore John Barry's wonderful soundtrack. It would be really interesting to watch the film with just the dialogue to see how different it would be and whether the acting and the story itself would be enough to hold my interest to the end.