Saturday 20 September 2014

#83 A Friday night in September

"I just walked past you" I texted, as I walked up towards the ticket barrier. "Want to go for a drink?" came the response. "Ok". I started walking back down towards the crossroads. Looking around for some black hair in a leather jacket, I felt my pocket vibrate. "I'm near the steps down to Borough Market, where are you?" I trotted over the road, dodging traffic in an attempt to look cool and daring.

Anna was very apologetic about blanking me and was grateful to have a buddy on the scene as she waited for her friend, who was apparently already hammered somewhere. So we started to chat whilst waiting for the drinks. All of my friends who are teachers complain about the stress of the job. It's perfectly understandable. In theory, an educator should be able to mark papers between 3.30pm and 5pm and plan lessons during those extra weeks of holiday that they get. In reality it doesn't work anything like this. For one thing, marking thirty students' work takes a long, long time. Evenings and weekends start to disappear under a mountain of papers and when they finally get time off, they've lost touch with some of their friends and have to try to pick up with them again.

"How long does it take to pour a large G&T?" Still, it was refreshing to hang out in a proper London boozer. Lets face it, most pubs have become a bit camp these days. Is a burger still a burger when it's so delicately placed under the obligatory lettuce, tomato and onion, skewered between a brioche and forced to sit on a chopping board instead of proper tableware? If you listen carefully enough, you can hear the chips crying that their souls were destroyed somewhere between the second and third fry.

The drinks finally arrived, brought over by what looked like a student on his way to a farmers' themed fancy dress party? No, like I said, this was a real pub. I think they had Amstel but I opted for Fosters. Could you get Amstel in British pubs twenty years ago? I don't know. We had a bit of a gossip about work, friends, dating, the house, recent weddings and then went our separate ways. The fading warmth of summer lingered in the air as I wandered up the road towards the station. My own work had provided just the usual sort of challenges that I'd needed to sustain and simultaneously drain me over the course of five days. I felt ok though. Maybe I'd go for a run tomorrow.

Sunday 7 September 2014

#82 Some thoughts and a book review

It was a phrase that my soulmate had echo'd time and time again
I wondered when I would ever listen
A grape would kill itself trying to be a nut
It's squishy and not hard enough
The other nuts would never understand
A grape may of course harden over time but it will never be a nut
A nut will equally never be a grape
It is hard and strong but it lacks sweetness and will never gain it

The last slice of pizza sat on the plate, mocking me
This wasn't the day to be a hero
I'd probably end up refrigerating it
That's my pizza

o O o

The Art of Happiness is a book based on interviews between Dr Howard Cutler and the Dalai Lama. Tibet's exiled spiritual leader spends much of his time philosophising and dispensing general advice. He may not be technically qualified to do so. His speeches and advice may not be rooted in established educational theory. This is because his teachings are not scientific in nature.

If a person wished to solve a practical problem, learn about a historical event, obtain a medical diagnoses or treatment, they should approach experts in these areas.The role and advice of a Buddhist monk is more akin to that of a mother or father. Comforting. His recommendations will be based on his own perspective and life experience.

The monk may be a worthy person to talk to about happiness and well-being. He routinely spends hours contemplating warmth and compassion. Studies, using MRI scans and electrodes, have shown increased activity in the parts of the monks' brains that are associated with feelings of contentment.

Happiness might be recognised as an art rather than a science, as what makes one person happy may not work for another. It may not even make sense to the other person. Perhaps the monk can be compared to an artist, who, through practise, has become particularly good at envisioning an image that is beautiful to him.