An ode to time

Clock 2

Time.

How can there be so much of you, and so little.

I thought I controlled my days but I don’t, you do.

You are around me always, yet so elusive.

I keep losing you, but you were never mine.

When I need more of you, I can’t find you.

You are constant, yet I am always running out of you.

You can be so fast, and so slow, but you are always the same.

I don’t have you, but I always need you.

Despite your value, I often waste you.

I never capture you, but you always escape me.

You don’t do anything, but you define everything.

You make the world go round.

I simply watch.

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Meet Monty the penguin – nice one John Lewis

Monty 3

Yes, it’s that time of year again. The time when people complain at those who mention Christmas is on its way, the time when you have to choose your menu for the work Christmas meal, the time when Secret Santa’s are organised, and the time when the Christmas adverts come out. For me, I really feel the Christmas spirit when I see the Coca Cola advert, but I haven’t yet. What I have seen however is John Lewis’ new gift to the nation. And it involves a penguin. Called Monty. A PENGUIN CALLED MONTY.

John Lewis always have a touch of magic about their Christmas adverts. I particularly enjoyed last year’s animation (which involved a bear and a hare – see a theme there?) because the concept was so clever. If you don’t recall, the bear always missed Christmas because he was hibernating, so the hare – being a wonderful friend – bought him an alarm clock to go off on Christmas Day, so he could spend it with the other animals. Touching, personal, SIMPLE.

I came in to work this morning and my boss played the new advert to a few of us – I work for an advertising agency, so it’s not unusual to do this. With a soundtrack by Tom Odell, it starts off featuring Pingu, so naturally I was hooked from the off. I used to love that show. But what I love most about the John Lewis adverts is the story which they tell, this time through the eyes of a young boy. He has a best friend, Monty the penguin, who he goes everywhere with. At the start I wondered where the advert was going – and what it had to do with John Lewis – but it all unfolds beautifully. By the end, my eyes were a little glassy. I am not ashamed to admit it. My boss took the piss, but was equally as complimentary about the advert as I was. And it only cost John Lewis £1 million to make!

Advertising which has an emotional effect is, in my opinion, the most powerful. Add to that humour, a cute kid, an even more cute animal, and you have a winning formula. Animals, or ‘cute looking things’ like Zingy are particular popular – look what Aleksandr the Compare the Market meercat did? Some clever advertising created a whole new business stream.

Having said that, some charities really play on emotional advertising and I often feel uncomfortable watching those. They are designed to make you feel bad, whereas I challenge anyone not to feel at least a little uplifted by John Lewis’ new offering. It’s just an advert, but it unlocks feelings in me. Perhaps I’m emotionally vulnerable, in a way, but I like that. I like being able to feel. And everyone loves a good story.

Other company adverts which have really impressed me of late are Marks & Spencer – serious food porn, nailed – and Lidl, which is doing an impressive job of changing perceptions. Lidl have just released their new Christmas advert which is in the link.

What kind of adverts get you engaged? What do you think of the Christmas offerings so far? And, most importantly, how much do you love Monty?

Living for the present v living for the future

Traintrack

I have always been someone who looks towards the future. Someone who thinks that what I’m doing at a certain point in time isn’t good enough and I want to move onto the next thing. Because then, life will be better. My mother would corroborate this. When I was in primary school, I wanted to go to ‘big’ school. When in secondary school, I wanted to go to university. When at university, I wanted to start my career. And so on. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the times I spent doing any of those things, but it meant that I wasn’t always living in the present. I was always looking towards the next step. This isn’t always helped by circumstances. For example, I studied Law at university and you have to start applying for training contracts at the end of the first year, because so many firms recruit two years in advance. This forces you to think about your future. Where you want to be, what you want to be doing.

I do still do this now, to an extent. One of the reasons I left my job as a lawyer was because I simply couldn’t see myself doing it in five years’ time. In this respect, evaluating how I wanted my future to look was a good thing, because it meant I changed path sooner rather than later. Luckily, making that change was the right thing to do. But although I’ve found a job I’m really happy doing and feel settled within it, I still can’t help thinking ‘what’s next?’ Not in terms of job – I hope to stay where I am for a long time and grow organically with the business – but in terms of life. I’ve been living in my one-bed flat for just over four years now, and it’s great. Ideal location, generous size, lovely inside. It’s served me exceptionally well. When Olly moved in a couple of years ago, it was a squeeze. But we have worked around the space issue and, generally, it’s just fine. But sometimes, I do want more indoor space. And almost all of the time, I want outdoor space. The answer? I want to move to a bigger house with a garden. The flat just doesn’t cut the mustard any more. Cue becoming obsessed with Rightmove and becoming ridiculously excited by the idea of having a shiny new home.

Olly isn’t quite on the same page. Why do we need to move now? We are happy where we are. And it’s true, we are happy where we are. But I had started to see all the flaws in where we lived and was focused only on how our life could be improved by living elsewhere, instead of thinking about all the positive things which our current circumstances offer and how good we already have it.

What I’m learning is that it’s fine to look towards your future. In fact, it’s important to do so. People should always have dreams and ambitions. But equally, it’s important not to become so immersed in how you want your future to be that you don’t appreciate what you already have today. So I’ve taken my foot off the moving house pedal. Our flat is warm and cosy in the winter, I no longer have to wear corporate clothing for my job so I can clear some more space in the wardrobe, and the lack of garden can force us to get out the house even more in the summer. I actually have it really good, and I’m lucky. So I need to spend more time appreciating the present and less time mapping out the future. I’m a complete believer in fate, and as much as we can try and master our own destinies, what will be will be.

So be an optimist, or at least a realist. Even if you think your life or the things in it are not the way you want them, turn your thinking around. There are always silver linings floating around, you just need to find them and change your attitude. If you live too much for the future, your present will pass you by. And there could be a whole lot of happy that you miss out on.

The difference between being alone and being lonely

Alone

Some people might consider being alone and being lonely to be the same thing, but I disagree.  Sure, there are cross-overs, but they can also have distinct differences.  I am very good at being alone.  I am not at all good at being lonely.  The biggest difference I see is the choice you have: a person can choose to be alone, but does not choose to be lonely.

When I bought my flat aged 22 I made the decision to live on my own, something which may seem unusual.  Many others I knew at that age chose to live with friends, or at least flat share with people they had found on the internet.  Sometimes a person can’t afford to live alone even if they wanted to, I understand that, but for me the decision was more about being able to do exactly what I wanted, when I wanted.  And if the place got messy, I could only be mad at myself.  I loved coming home from work in the evenings to a cosy warm flat, dancing like no-one was watching (because no-one was), singing in the shower, leaving the washing up till I could be bothered to do it and, on occasion, watching TV till 1am (luckily I had kicked the habit of late night quiz shows in university, my god those awful programmes were addictive).

Basically, I was more than happy to be alone.  Oddly, perhaps, I have always enjoyed the company of me, myself and I.  I can socialise with others when I choose to, not because I have to.  I have always been good at saying no.  I’m not anti-social, but I’ve never been the biggest people person.  There always comes a time when I long for peace and quiet.  On a night out (rare these days), there always comes a point where I visualise my bed and then want to leave.

Now that Olly lives with me I don’t get a lot of time to be alone, but this is fine because he’s my best friend.  I can be completely myself around him (so yes, he’s seen plenty of crazy dance moves) and if I don’t want to talk, I don’t have to.  Despite this, it’s still important to take some time and space from each other.  It allows you to be immersed only in your own thoughts, without the contamination of anyone else’s for a little while.  Always good for perspective and reflection.  But when I don’t want to be alone any more, I can choose not to be.

Loneliness is a whole other ball game.  You can be lonely when you are alone, but you can also be lonely in a room brimming with other people.  You can be lonely sitting next to your best friend and not being able to say what you are dying to say.  You can be lonely even if you have a hundred friends.  Loneliness is consuming.  It is an emptiness inside which longs to be filled.  The absence of choice separates it from simply ‘being alone’.

At one of the law firms I used to work for, we held a coffee morning for members of the charity Contact the Elderly, which brings together elderly men and women who are missing companionship in their lives.  After speaking to many of them, it became clear that they lived for these meetings.  These meetings kept them going.  They looked forward to them and were disappointed when they were over.  Did this mean that they felt lonely the rest of the time?  That they felt they had no-one to talk to?  No-one to just keep them company?  For a lot of them it did unfortunately mean this.  But they were so grateful to have a place where that loneliness went away, even if it was just for a short while.

Everyone has experienced being alone at some point, and most people will have felt some sort of loneliness too.  But the latter is a negative feeling.  It is a feeling that something is missing, rather than a feeling of reflecting upon what is there.  Loneliness can be a craving for interaction with other people, while being alone can be a desperate need to escape from others.

What do you think the differences are?