26 July 2015

Sun on Sunday - Fabulous???

Take a look at today's Fabulous magazine (Sun on Sunday) to see a picture and interview with Louise Atkinson, my daughter -in-law, about dealing with the death of her brother 4 years ago.


LOUISE Atkinson, 36, a nurse, lives in Bridgwater, Somerset, with her husband Joe, 43, a teacher, and their children Stanley, six, and Connie, two
”I will never forget my brother Ian’s trembling voice as he told me he’d tried to kill himself.
It was May 2004 and Ian, then 28, had woken up on his bedroom floor after he’d attempted to hang himself.
When I got off the phone, I couldn’t stop shaking.
Even as a child, Ian was a sensitive soul.
Three years older than me, he’d always been funny and popular and we were incredibly close.
But he took everything to heart, and if things went wrong, he became despondent.
Although he fulfilled his dream of joining the police in 2003, within a year he’d lost his job as he just wasn’t cut out for it. He grew very depressed, but until that terrible conversation, I hadn’t realised how bad things were.
Following his suicide attempt, Ian was hospitalised with clinical depression for a month.
Our parents Steve, now 66, and Margaret, 65, had no idea as he didn’t want them to worry, so I became his main support.
Even with very strong antidepressants, Ian suffered from insomnia and black moods.
The depression was often so severe he could barely function, although he somehow managed to train as an occupational therapist – ironically in mental health.
At times, being Ian’s rock was tough. I worked long shifts as a nurse, and I had my own life to lead.
But he gradually felt better and things started to look up for him. He had a job he loved and he was open with a small number of supportive colleagues about his mental health problems.
Over those next few years, Ian seemed to grow stronger and even told Dad about his suicide attempt.
Then in September 2011, a girl he’d dated for a few months broke up with him.
Ian found this hard, but when I spoke to him, he sounded more fed-up than depressed, so I didn’t panic.
But at 8pm the following night, Dad rang – and his words will stay with me forever: ’It’s Ian. He’s done it.’
I listened, stunned, as he explained that Ian’s worried boss had called the police after he hadn’t shown up for work and she couldn’t get hold of him. Ian was discovered dead, hanging in his bedroom. He was 35.
Louise with her brother Ian
Louise with her brother Ian

Completely broken, I sat crying with Mum and Dad and my sister Naomi, now 22.
We agreed right from the start that we’d be honest about his death.
So I spoke at Ian’s funeral about his depression. Some people were shocked, but after years of seeing him suffer in silence, we were not going to feel ashamed of his illness.
Grief changed me. I saw the world differently and started to question everything.
A year later, I was diagnosed with depression. I’ve had therapy and rely on antidepressants. Unlike Ian, I’m open about my illness and won’t let shame or fear make me feel worse.
Nearly four years after Ian’s death, I am determined to destroy the stigma surrounding mental health, as well as raise money for those suffering. In May, I took part in the Mind 3000s – a sponsored 24-hour, 50km trek in the Lake District – and have raised over £3,500.
I couldn’t save Ian, but I hope I can help people who are suffering like he did.”

FYI

There were 4,858 male suicides in England and Wales in 2013 – making it the most common cause of death for men under 35.*
You can support Louise by visitingMemoryspace.mind.org.uk/memoryspace/ian-paul-carter.

9 December 2014

A PowerPoint 'weather bomb' presentation!!!


What is a weather 'bomb'?


A Met Office "be aware" warning is running for parts of Scotland, England and Northern Ireland.
Parts of western Scotland are braced for strong winds and "unusually high" waves, while there have already been a string of road accidents amid snow and ice.
But with newspapers predicting a UK weather 'bomb' for the second year running, what does the term actually mean?
BBC weather's Peter Gibbs (above) explains:
A Met Office "be aware" warning is running for parts of Scotland, England and Northern Ireland.
Parts of western Scotland are braced for strong winds and "unusually high" waves, while there have already been a string of road accidents amid snow and ice.
But with newspapers predicting a UK weather 'bomb' for the second year running, what does the term actually mean?
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The above (word for word) appears on today's BBC website. To watch the presentation, click on "What is a weather 'bomb'".

Then ask yourself whether weather forecasts are aided or abetted by yet another PowerPoint style presentation (on which I've blogged previously and ad nauseam.

I don't think such expensively created graphics add very much. Nor do I believe for one moment that we are about to be 'bombed' out of existence, or at least under cover.

But I suppose such graphics are a good excuse for inflicting yet more frightening tabloid headlines on us unsuspecting viewers (and license payers)...
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P.S. 3  days later: The 'bomb' shows no sign of appearing here in the depths of Somerset! Quel surprise...  
Meanwhile, PowerPoint style news programmes continue apace on the BBC and elsewhere.
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4 December 2014

Former Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe dies today

 Jeremy Thorpe






    It was the first time I voted tactically, having always voted Labour until then. But, as is quite well          known, I have voted for the SDP and Liberal Democrats ever since.

    Before the days of video tapes, let alone the internet, there's not much chance you'll see many
    examples of him speaking - except on tonight's prime time news programmes.

    And expect most of them to remind us of some scandalous and negative events in the life of an old    Etonian...
I once heard Jeremy Thorpe make a speech at a boys' grammar school in Wilmslow, Cheshire. just before the 1979 general election - long before I was in the least bit interested in public speaking as a subject worthy of research. And an extremely effective speaker he was.

Our reason for going to the meeting, apart from the fact that my late wife taught at Wilmslow girls' grammar school and we lived nearby, was that it was then a marginal seat.

The Labour party's sudden lurch to the extreme left had made us think of voting against the Tories, without actually voting for Michael Foot et al.

Michael Clarke's moving tribute to another cricketer's sudden death


I'd recommend anyone interested in funeral orations -  or speech-making of any kind - to watch this splendid example by Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke (right) at the funeral of a colleague (who was hit on the head by a ball) Philip Hughes.
The text can be read verbatim and in full below - and is a model of how to make a great speech on any occasion - not just at a funeral, but in business, politics or anywhere else.

It will be interesting to see how many hits Clarke's tribute  eventually gets on YouTube.
So far, the total number of YouTube  views is 85,000.

Anecdotes, 3 part lists and other rhetorical devices are here in abundance (see my books).

Clarke in not a professional speaker (yet), but his mastery of rhetoric and delivery is pretty good. Keen anoraks among you might like to check it in detail - as I shall be doing if and when when I have time. 

Watch this space...
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I'm deeply honoured to have been asked by Phillip's family to speak today. I am humbled to be in the presence of you, his family, his friends and his community. He was so proud of Macksville and it is easy to see why today.
Taken from the game, his family and loved ones at the age of just 25, he left a mark on our game that needs no embellishment. I don't know about you, but I keep looking for him. I know it is crazy but I expect any minute to take a call from him or to see his face pop around the corner. Is this what we call the spirit? If so, then his spirit is still with me. And I hope it never leaves.
I walked to the middle of the SCG on Thursday night, those same blades of grass beneath my feet where he and I and so many of his mates here today have built partnerships, taken chances and lived out the dreams we paint in our heads as boys.
The same stands where the crowds rose to their feet to cheer them on and that same fence he sent the ball to time and time again. And it is now forever the place where he fell.
I stood there at the wicket, I knelt down and touched the grass, I swear he was with me. Picking me up off my feet to check if I was okay. Telling me we just needed to dig in and get through to tea. Telling me off for that loose shot I played. Chatting about what movie we might watch that night. And then passing on a useless fact about cows.
I could see him swagger back to the other end, grin at the bowler, and call me through for a run with such a booming voice, a bloke in the car park would hear it. The heart of a man who lived his life for this wonderful game we play, and whose soul enriched not just our sport, but all of our lives.
Is this what indigenous Australians believe about a person's spirit being connected with the land upon which they walk? If so, I know they are right about the SCG. His spirit has touched it and it will be forever be a sacred ground for me. I can feel his presence there and I can see how he has touched so many people around the world. The tributes to him from cricket lovers kept me going.
The photos, the words, the prayers and the sense of communion in this loss from people across the globe have shown me his spirit in action. It has sustained me and overwhelmed me in equal measure. And the love of my band of baggy green and gold brothers an sisters have held me upright when I thought I could not proceed.
His spirit has brought us closer together - something I know must be him at work because it is so consistent with how he played and lived. He always wanted to bring people together and he always wanted to celebrate his love for the game and its people.
Is this what we call the spirit of cricket? From the little girl holding a candlelight tribute to masters of the game like Tendulkar, Warne and Lara, the spirit of cricket binds us all together. We feel it in the thrill of a cover drive. Or the taking of a screamer at gully, whether by a 12-year-old boy or by Brendan McCullum in Dubai. It is in the brilliant five-wicket haul, just as significant to the players in a Western Suburbs club game as it is in a Test match.
The bonds that lead to cricketers from around the world putting their bats out, that saw people who didn't even know Phillip lay flowers and that brought every cricketing nation on earth to make its own heartfelt tribute. The bonds that saw players old and new rush to his bed side. From wherever they heard the news to say their prayers and farewells. This is what makes our game the greatest game in the world.
Phillip's spirit, which is now part of our game forever, will act as a custodian of the sport we all love. We must listen to it. We must cherish it. We must learn from it. We must dig in and get through to tea. And we must play on. So rest in peace my little brother. I'll see you out in the middle.
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2 December 2014

Speech of the year by the retiring Gordon Brown?


Gordon Brown
After yesterday's post on the retirement of Gordon Brown, one of my sons reminded me of the brilliant speech the former PM had made on the night before the referendum on Scottish independence.

I had seen it too and agree that it qualifies as speech of the year - even though Mr Brown was hardly the greatest orator the world has ever seen.

What's more, it's had half a million views on YouTube!!!

Say no more.

1 December 2014

Goodbye, alas, and Merry Christmas to Gordon Brown!

Gordon Brown
Former PM Gordon Brown has been a regular star of this blog - ever since my first ever blogpost, which included some tips for one of his party conference speeches that was originally commissioned by The Times.

Since then, I've posted low and high opinions of him (neutral, of course!) and will be very sorry indeed to see him go (to the House of Lords, we assume). 

Anyone who hasn't the energy to scroll through loads of individual blogposts about him are recommended to have a look at my latest book, which has all the political blog posts in it - and is readily available from Amazon .*

Further comments on his competence (or otherwise) as a PM, a speaker, a communicator, rugby player - or anything else - will, of course, be very welcome here and for my next book.
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* This, and other posts shamelessly publicising my latest book, has/have appeared because my agent tells me that the receipt of 5* reviews on Amazon is the most effective way of selling books these days. So thanks in advance to any of you who can be bothered!
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24 November 2014

PM PROGRAMME PAUSES PUZZLE



Tonight's Radio 4 PM news programme had a feature on pauses (a few minutes ago). but no one there had asked me to go on the show.

Nor had anyone bothered to ask me about how pauses work in conversation, speaking, presenting - whether on radio, television or everyday life.

Maybe the trouble is that there's no one at the BBC - including PM presenter, Eddie Mair (above), who has read any of my books. 

If he, they (or you) had done so, they'd/you'd have a fair idea about how pauses work in a wide variety of different settings. If the feature continues tomorrow, there's plenty of time to phone me or perhaps even read one of them.

I'm not very optimistic, but watch this space.

(P.S. note the quadruple alliteration in the title).