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The city of Bristol in the south west corner of the UK has got a lot going for it.

Lots of waterways and restored industrial buildings, elegant Georgian squares,

and more rejuvenation of old buildings into new residences and places for leisure than you would ever think sustainable for what is only the UK’s 10th largest city

Throw in some trendy pubs, innovative workspaces

and a lot of new building and you have the complete package.

But success is a magnet for both those who can benefit from a fast paced economy and those who just aspire to it.

There is a worryingly large homeless population on the streets who by fate, misfortune or poor judgement are on the wrong side of the success story.

I was in the city briefly this week and was struck by how there are people who will have (albeit to varying degrees) skills and talents that could play a part in this city, but are unused and not developed.

Why, well inevitably the homeless who are drawn here are caught in the trap of poverty, sometimes alcohol and substance abuse and are therefore marginalised. As we inevitably move towards a post Brexit Britain with a diminished workforce, we need our young people as contributors and when I see these people I don’t just see a scruffy, maybe unkempt individual but an unused talent and someone with something to give.

Bristol is trying to help..there are schemes where you can donate small sums of money to assist people getting back on board.

I commend these schemes as they are far more effective than direct donations of money to individuals.

The £3 less in my bank account won’t impact my life, but I hope how it is used will play a small but important part in someone else’s.

Read more on the scheme here.

But personal contact is important too… my daughter will often give a free coffee that she gets awarded by her mobile phone company to a homeless person. A small gesture, but human touch also goes a long way.

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Glass half full

The country singer Lee Ann Womack probably isn’t on any of my itunes playlists. However fate, a.k.a. music shuffle, determined that I would listen to her ‘signature’ hit “Dance” the other day.

When I am travelling by air, I end up listening to a lot of my music that I have amassed in iTunes.

The lyrics are powerful with the underlying message of grasp opportunities that present themselves and never fail to be in awe of the world!

November in northern europe can be a very grey and dreary month and just as Lee Ann was telling me ‘if I get the choice to sit it out or dance ‘, that I have to take the ‘dance option’ , I was presented with the most beautiful sunset from the aircraft window.

So lesson 1 noted, enjoy the world!

And of course you don’t need to be at 30,000 feet in the sky for such opportunties. Every park or garden offers us the chance to appreciate autumn colours and the changes in nature around us as it prepares for winter.

But this was just a mere pre cursor to what happened the next day.

I witnessed for the first time in my life, someone responding to a heart attack victim …I know both the responder and the person having the heart attack….someone you would not categorise as high risk..a young Mum, healthy eating, healthy living, non smoking…… but sometimes these unexpected incidents do happen. Fate, or God (and I have the greatest and equality of respect for those who share my faith, or have none) decided that this first aider was there and had the courage and training and strength to give both CPR and use the defibrillator (that again thankfully was nearby) to bring her back to life, and keep her alive for some 15 minutes until the ambulance arrived.

I am in awe of that man and what he did.

And my New Year’s resolution (but effective now..) is to get expert training and develop those same skills myself.

Not the usual content for my blog but a very positive outcome and a lesson learned that we are all vulnerable.

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When I became an Elf…..

I first visited Germany at age eleven. Like many eleven year olds I wasn’t really captivated by continental European culture, gastronomic delicacies or really much at all that was on the ‘must do’ list for a visitor……..

My idea back then of how to spend summer holidays was about being out on my bike or playing with friends……

Furthermore I actually celebrated my birthday on that trip and was more than somewhat non-plussed to be told by numerous elderly couples (on reflection now, they were probably aged about 40) staying in our hotel when finding out my newly acquired age, “Ah you are now elf”. My knowledge of German, even basics such as numbers after 10 was very limited!

Wind the clock on a few decades and I have come to love the place. Indeed I actually work for a German employer now, but based out of home in the UK; I also have one branch of my extended family located there so my involvement and appreciation of the countries and the people is very regular and advanced.

What is best is the simplicity of many things and the approach to leisure.

By simplicity I mean the problem solving applied to every day challenges…..Oktoberfest is an amazing tradition.

As there are only for 4 weeks in October for this event , it needed to be longer …so now it actually starts mid September so it can last long enough!

And not to be outdone…the winter Christmas Markets with amazing things to eat and drink are just the same. Advent starts at the first Sunday in December …but in reality you will find people thronging to these events with these starting in mid November!!

And it’s not just food and drink.. there are very few pieces of German engineering thst have failed to impress me over the years ranging from Bosch power tools, to AEG domestic appliances and of course cars I have had both Audi and BMW and really nothing can surpass these.

Anything Germany cannot do….well really the only thing might be to produce a decent cup of tea!

…..but given time, even that may happen.

Oops

In the words of Britney spears….oops I’ve done it again and managed to press publish, not save , for a ‘work in progress’. Unless well versed in gibberish…please just delete ‘When I became an Elf ‘ that has just arrived in your in box and wait for version two…later today….

It never rains, it pours

Of all the strange idioms we have in the English language, this one is definitely at the very strange end of the spectrum. For those not native speakers, or just not familiar with the term, it really means when something bad happens, it’s not just bad, it’s really, really bad!

In some ways it is actually very strange that we use this expression in the UK as in meteorological terms, we are quite the opposite in the British Isles and in reality we are far more likely to have damp, drizzle, persistent rain or the odd cloudburst rather than continuous days of monsoon like pouring rain.

In the UK we actually seem to specialise in non descript weather and this is to our disadvantage. Go to a country like Canada where consistently the winter temperatures are acutely sub zero night and day and you will find it’s all taken in their stride.

Underground heated shopping malls, spectacularly efficient and monster sized snow clearing equipment and as a standard for most cars the capability to plug in ‘ car style electric blankets’ to protect the engines and remote control devices that allow the car to be started from inside your home to let it warm up (but keep the doors locked).

And it is not just winter weather. When we have a hotter than average summer, most of our public buildings and almost all homes will not have any form of air conditioning unlike their Mediterranean or North American counterparts. Result…during a heatwave people struggle to sleep or be productive in the workplace.

And if you think it’s just the weather, we struggle with seasonal variations of the environment. The UK rail system is notorious for problems with ‘leaves on the line’…somehow we are almost unique in the world that our trains struggle with mashed up damp leaves!

We are by nature a stoic nation and when the current generation grumble about these challenges, the parental generation is often quick to retort with…it was worse in my day!

Probably very true, but in the same way that we eradicated the black death and other historical ailments, our present day objective must be to facilitate our managing the challenges thrown at us rather than just grudgingly accepting them.

I think the fact that we are no longer wandering the earth wearing loin cloths and carrying a club demonstrates our success to date!

Halloween?…lets put up the Christmas Tree and buy Creme eggs

It was Halloween this week.

I can tell that as I walked past a hairdressers (not mine) and they had Christmas decorations on display.

There was a time in the UK where everything was celebrated sequentially. Following Halloween, Guy Fawkes/Bonfire night on the 5th November was indeed celebrated on that day..not as now when there is a two week free-for-all of fireworks on either side of this date and the national debt of a small country is literally up in smoke every night.

Christmas then follows after that with Christmas lights in town centres appearing around the same time as store displays and then domestic trees and decorations following a few weeks later at a respectable two week lead up to Christmas.

But now all restraint is out the window and from November Christmas advertising abounds with decorations, countless Father Christmas to meet and greet and non stop Festive muzak.

I really am not convinced it generates more sales and for the sales assistants who have to listen to Best of Christmas Hits compilation on a continuous loop must hope that they never, ever hear Roy Wood’s “I wish it could be Christmas every day” at all ever again.

And just for good measure, we in the UK now have an election. Interspersed with Christmas music, we will from this point have a constant bombardment of party political messages.

Happy days!

On yes, I nearly forgot….Cadburys creme eggs…a seasonal item for Easter but usually is back on sale from Christmas onwards….An acquired taste you will love them or hate them!

Once these are on the scene it marks the advance party of all things chocolate for Easter!

Happy 2nd November everyone…just enjoy each day for what it is live in the moment!

Oops and sorry!..post published too early

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New tricks for old dog….

You cannot teach an old dog new tricks is a well used idiom in the English language.

I am not sure if it exists in other languages but it probably translates quite well as compared with more confusing expressions such as ‘this is the exception that proves the rule’ , or even more confusingly ‘pardon my French’ uttered when people are indeed not speaking French, but speaking English, but with words you wouldn’t want your mother to hear!

The etymological origins of this are quite interesting in that way, way back some French was used in England and occasionally in error people would intersperse English with some random French phrases and then realise their error and apologise for it.

It is true that it takes longer for an old dog to learn new things, but it is not impossible, and the same for us humans. At one time there was almost an acceptance of once beyond a certain age, you really don’t do new things or make changes other than really radical things such as changing the day you go to Aldi from a Monday to a Tuesday!

If you think I am joking, I am aware of elderly couple who recently took this dramatic move and it was such a big thing they felt it merited being broadcast to all interested parties via a Whats App group message and then the services of a family member who happens to be trained counselor to assist them through their trauma!

But it seems we are as a nation and a generation getting better at doing new stuff.

Running clubs have new members joining in there 50’s, 60’s and 70’s in part helped by the popularity of Parkrun – if you are not familiar with the concept of Parkrun….Google it.

TV cookery programmes such as Masterchef and Bake off have inspired countless thousand to be more adventurous in (or even just find…) the kitchen.

And then there are the thousands or indeed tens of thousands of people writing – whether they are novelists or just simple bloggers…more than ever thoughts and ideas are being translated into the written word.

The opportunities to do new things are endless…ok, some of them are very expensive and costs and time exclude these for many people.

For me I would love to learn to fly and really hope that one day circumstance will allow this but that certainly is on the ‘one day, but not now list’, but meantime for all of us the chances to learn and enjoy unmeasurable new things are boundless and very accessible.

So, Carpe diem !

….and one day you will remember this blog as your starting point for learning Latin !

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