Sunday, 13 May 2012

Thinking about it...The Starfish Story

Just not in the mood to write this afternoon. 

Do I have a subject? 


But it's one that gets me down at the frustration, injustice and cruelty of life.

Not one to lift the spirits then?

Not really. I'm feeling a bit defeatist.

Why? Well, so many people, so much abuse in all sorts of ways.

What difference can I make?  What's the point?

Remember that *starfish story you heard on the radio the other day.

Yes, that got under my skin. It keeps rattling round my head.

Am I procrastinating? 

Maybe a bit.

Would I like to be doing something else? 

Yes, I'd like to go back out to the garden. 

Why don't I? 

Because I was out there earlier and my back has to be treated with respect, which is boring.

This weather is getting a bit tedious too. Loving the lush green, but not the chilly wind.

I'd like to read the papers. But those can wait.

I'm hungry. 

Have something to eat then. 

The stew is in the slow cooker and smells good. I'd like to scoff all sorts of things that won't ultimately be helpful in my 'getting fit' for London 2012 campaign. 

That's boring. 


And you worked hard outside earlier? 


Using up lots of calories. 


Go on then...

Oh shut up!

Knowing what to do and doing it are two very different things. 

The log fire, Sunday papers and glass of wine are calling.

But a glass of water sipped slowly would get rid of the pangs.


But that's boring. Oh, there's that word again.

Old 70s music on the radio. 

So much has happened since those days. Another 30 years and I'll be in my 90s.

Oh Joy!

Got to keep going. The alternative is worse.

Why don't you just write down that Starfish story?


An adult and a young girl were walking on a beach. Hundreds and hundreds of starfish had been swept on to the beach and were dying.  The young girl picked up a single starfish and threw it back in the sea. 

The adult said, "Why are you doing that? It's not going to make a difference."

The young girl said, "It will make a difference to that one."

Look, you wrote something.

So I did.


Monday, 7 May 2012

" I thought you meant something else." - Misunderstandings.

It's a public holiday in the UK today. A long weekend. Lots of people, including me,  have been in the garden, trying to fight a losing battle with weeds. (Why has April been too cold for seeds and plants to grow, but hasn't stopped the weeds?)

It's a cue for a real-life story. One I've been saving up for the right time.

Back in 2000, a friend, Sally had a son, Ben, then aged 19. They lived in North Wales. The son and family had gone through a few difficult years, but the future was beginning to look brighter at last. One of the activities which had been a major help to the son's recovery, was when he joined  a local volunteer force, working in the countryside, up on the hills.

This activity had been a wonderful opportunity for the young man to get out of the house, become engaged in outdoor activities and meet challenges, as well as other people. Ben loved it and blossomed.

One day he returned from a day, working hard, high up on the hills. Ben walked in the house and shouted, "Hi mum, I'm home." He then went for a shower and afterwards went on the computer in the kitchen.

Sally was in the garden and shouted back, "I'm stuck up a tree."

Some time later, Sally came into the kitchen, found Ben on the computer and there was an almighty row, about how selfish Ben was. Both became entrenched and neither could or would see the other person's point of view. When I heard about it and being uninvolved, it was all too obvious what had happened.

Unfortunately, when Sally said she was "stuck up a tree", she really did mean that she was well and truly 'stuck', up in an apple tree. She was frightened and only too pleased when she heard Ben come in the house.

What Ben had heard, was that his mother was out in the garden and stuck up a tree, in the same way, that if asked, he would have said, "I've been stuck up on a hill all day." It never occurred to him that his mother was actually 'stuck'.

Why Sally didn't shout more or say "help", I don't know.  But as we know 'emotional arousal can make you stupid'. Fear and irritation can add to the mix.

I'm sure it happens in other languages too, but the English language supplies many examples of one word meaning a variety of things, depending on context, tone and expression. Texts, Twitter and internet forums are notorious for misunderstandings.

Even living in different parts on a small country can cause misunderstandings. In the south of the UK, the evening meal is often called supper, maybe dinner. Tea is an mid-afternoon snack. The more northerly you travel, supper tends to be a late evening snack, dinner is a main meal at lunchtime and tea is the evening meal. Now I live in the North of England, I always refer to the evening meal as tea, which confuses my mother, amongst others, who have only lived in the the South of England.

There are hundreds of idioms, which we say without thinking, but must be a bit odd to a newcomer to the language. Someone on the autistic spectrum can also show bewilderment at things not being exactly as said. 

In therapy, use of metaphors can be very useful, but we were taught not to use them, if a client had a diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome.

There's any number of expressions and idioms that could confuse:
' In hot water.'
' Under the weather.'
' Tongue-in-cheek.'
' Costs an arm and a leg.'
' The ball's in your court.'
' Drive someone up the wall.'
' Chip on the shoulder.'

and a great many others.

Imagine using those expressions to someone who can only make sense of the language literally?

The language we use and how we say can be only part of the problem. Imagine loading the words with an emotion connected with something in the past and nothing to do with the present situation?

This topic also came to mind this week, with a friend, who thinks that too many women are hiding themselves in black clothing and would love to run a campaign for women to wear brighter clothing. She was thinking about a fun PR exercise for a local organisation with strong international connections.

In all innocence, she suggested calling the campaign 'Blackout'. In the context of a women's clothes, it made sense. But it could never be used, could it?