learning from the man crèche


Waiting for a train, reading a notice board on the platform. It’s a real curiosity generator.

It seems, just within a mile or two of this platform, I can join a talk on the Inter City story hosted by the local Railway Correspondence and Travel Society. Who knew such things existed, or that experts travelled to tell the story of the creation of this brand?

I can donate £5 to buy a brick to help extend the local primary school – perhaps a reflection of the slow decay of government as the inexorable demands for funding grow in all quarters and increasingly cannot be met?

I can get my bike serviced with options ranging from a ‘tune up’, through a ‘full monty’, to a ‘strip and rebuild’ – there was a time a full monty might have been all in, but now a strip costs more.

I can join a debate on Georgian Kitchens and Cookery, hosted by the Local History Society – is that a debating topic? I’m not sure I’d have much to argue?

But the notice that most intrigues me is the Man Crèche.

The term crèche might normally be equated with children and I love this notion that one exists for fully grown men. The poster asks, “Is he getting under your feet?” It goes on to suggest, “Leave him with us. We’ll look after him.” Apparently, “All he needs is his pocket money.”  There are poker nights, curry nights and, most intriguingly, a pie night which incorporates a gravy boat challenge. I’m hooked by the gravy boat challenge. Games for men. Opportunities for men to play with men. How fabulous.

Ideas that shake up norms. That challenge our thinking, question convention. These are useful. They generate new possibilities, new thinking, new learning for us.

Taking a word like crèche and juxtaposing it with another people group. Juxtapolicious!


how do you know about pass the parcel?


I wonder sometimes if life is like a game of pass the parcel?

The music starts. Life runs.

The parcel moves around the circle.

In the party game, the parcel moves from child to child. In life though, maybe we are handing off one life moment to the next life moment? Passing our life to ourselves, experience by experience? That same self sitting next to us in the circle, about to live our next life episode?

In the game, the music stops. The anticipation of a gift, palpable. The joy of revealing it, effervescent. The pleasure of tasting the ‘sweetie’ within, satisfying. Feeling like you’ve won. Our child eagerly tears off the wrapper. Desperate to discover what lies within.

In the game of life, as an adult, we are however too keen to move on to the next scene, the next task, the next phase. We essentially restart the music immediately. No time to reflect on our personal learning. No time to even notice if we had any learning. No curiosity about the ‘sweetie’; that insight into ourselves. Move on. Pass the parcel of life to your adjacent, same self.

If we viewed life as a game of pass the parcel, where we stopped the music and enjoyed the self learning, the insight into how we’re growing as a human being, who we are, who we are becoming, where we’re going; how much richer would we be?

What if you don’t know about pass the parcel? What if you have never explored yourself, how you tick, how you come to the world, how you are evolving, your gifts, why you are here…? What if you just pass the parcel of life on to your same self neighbour? What if the music keeps playing?

Start now.
Play the game.
Tear open the gifts.
Learn to learn.
Learn to grow.

The game never ends.
The learning never stops.
Until the music does.

do onions really smell?


“Ogres are like onions.”

In the movie Shrek, the ogre is walking with Donkey through a field. Shrek is trying to describe his complexity. “Ogres have layers” he continues. Donkey doesn’t get it and wonders if Ogres are like cakes, because they have layers too and more people like cake. It’s an amusing, but deeply human moment. The analogy of a simple vegetable revealing real human depth, in an ogre. But as in many of today’s great children’s animations, there are messages, metaphors, analogies for the adults.

And… we are all like onions.

Layers of complexity. People we meet will see the outer layer. Those who look deeper may see what lies in the next layer down, or even the one beneath. If we pay attention to people and really take the time to notice, we can all see layers of their complexity and a depth of ‘human being’ in those we meet. We can never see it all though – even in those we are closest to.

We, in turn, may let friends, and those close to us in. Sometimes sufficiently to see the three, four, five layers beneath the outer layers, but there may be a core we don’t let anyone in to see. We may not even know ourselves what lies at the heart of our humanity, our self, our soul. What we are really made of, capable of.

Experiences can reveal our own layers to us. Sometimes difficult experiences, moments of conflict, moments of pain, moments of personal challenge. These can reveal deeper truths to us, but only if we take the time to notice. Only if we are resourceful enough in the moment to learn. And often we are not.

We need to be curious about ourselves, take time to notice, be compassionate with ourselves, learn to reflect, give ourselves time. And we need to recognise the times when we are avoiding the difficult learning, by telling ourselves that well trodden story we have always told ourselves. We need to look for our true truth. Learn to learn. About ourselves.

An onion flavours our cooking.

Your layers flavour you.

let’s see what the pain looks like


Someone once uttered those words to me.

‘Let’s see what the pain looks like’.

The context was around an organisational change. I remember at the time being momentarily confused. Don’t you feel pain? I don’t know what it looks like, any more than I can taste it or hear it.

On reflection I realised it was an interesting insight to the speaker’s inner world. I regretted the missed opportunity of exploring with them what pain looked like for them. Did it have a colour? A hue? Was it a picture, a particular image, a personal memory? Was it sharp, blurred? Was it a still image, a movie? Was it 2D or 3D?

Beyond the curiosity about their representation, I wondered what had led them to see, rather than feel, pain. Was it that feeling it made it too real? Was it a defence mechanism, to stay a little removed and observe the pain rather than taking it into the body? Was it safer? Were other feelings also seen? Did they feel anything and, if so, what was ‘feelable’ and what wasn’t?

Was this only related to pain and other feelings or did they ‘see’ everything? Could they see smells or see tastes too? Did they see freshly mown grass when the smell wafted into their nostrils? Did they see musical notes as they listened or played? Did they have other synaesthesia, such as hearing smells, tasting sounds or smelling images?

A missed opportunity, but one that still serves as a learning, one that stays with me as a curiosity about the uniqueness of our human experience.


where has the magic gone?

#onthemoon metaphor meaning
The John Lewis Christmas advert is out. The man on the moon. Its intent is to highlight the loneliness of many old people at Christmas and to champion the concept of giving.

But the scientists, the cynics, the ‘ne’er be happies’, the journalists are already criticising the story. In the Guardian the other day, an article entitled “Who is moon Hitler?” appeared. How can a girl have a telescope that magnifies the moon so well? What is a man doing on the moon in a shack? Is he a banished criminal? How can he breathe? Balloons could not carry a gift to the moon, don’t people understand the physics?…

I wonder, have we lost the magic of metaphor? Where have the dreams gone? Does humankind not draw inspiration from the improbable any more? How do we progress without imagination? Where on our journey did we lose that childhood gift?

I have been with a number of people who, on seeing the advert, have shed a tear. Of course they have. As I was discussing here the other day, meaning making is an inherent human need and this beautiful piece of cinematic art gives us meaning. It connects us to our emotions. It reminds us of family, of loved ones, of Christmas, of being alone and of loneliness. That creates meaning for us.

John Lewis is being commercial, naturally. The advert is not entirely altruistic. But its association with Age UK is intended to highlight the number of people, particularly old people, who will feel loneliness this Christmas. A worthy human cause.

Notwithstanding the commerciality, the charitable intent and the human story though. Surely, even in a commercial, money driven world, there is space in our humanity still for hope, for imagination, for a wonder delivered through the magic of metaphor? If not, then as human beings we have fallen far.

We should look to our children, where magic and wonder still thrive. Where story and metaphor is still rich and wondrous, filled with meaning. Where experimentation and imagination fuel learning and growth. As adults we would do well to reconnect with the child in us.

Otherwise, where has the magic gone?