PC 33 Pause, Paws and Pours

Rush! Rush! Rush! Is this what we do? And how often do we cry: “Stop the world, I want to get off!” remembering that show from the last century. Today I’m reminded we do need to pause occasionally, if only to draw breath!

“What is this life if, full of care, we don’t have time to stand and stare…..  No time to see, when woods we pass, where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.” I often used this quotation from the Welsh poet WH Davies to get clients to think about creating space in their busy lives, to actually acknowledge that life was to be enjoyed. We get caught up in the doing and give no time for thinking, not allowing ourselves to pause. For what is this life of ours if we don’t give ourselves time, time to pause …. and look …. and wonder …. and marvel?

Creating space between ‘doing things’ is actually very important to our emotional health. I love expressing ideas in pictures, so when confronted with a stressed client, I would say: “Imagine you’re holding a bucket of water, and I ask you to walk down to the end of the room and come back, as quickly as you can. When you turn around at the end, some water pours out of the bucket. Do this a few times and you have no water! Your emotions are like the water …. so when you get to the end, pause, allow the water to come to rest, (2 seconds? That’s all it takes for sure!), turn around and come back ….. with a full bucket of water.”

You may recall my discovery back in December last year of a grammatical construct called a Zeugma (see PC 26)? For some time I have loved people using alliteration, where continuing words start with the same letter, as in “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper” …. or “dragging the lazy languid line across the rocks”. I gave Celina’s father a copy of Lynn Truss’s book ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves” for his birthday and, whilst fluent and extremely knowledgeable about English, he’s marvelling at the easy complexities of the language that Lynn discusses. What other language can have, for example, ‘hear and here’ or ‘there and their’ and each word meaning something completely different from the other.  I am drawn to words which rhyme with pause for this PC – words which aurally are identical, as in pause, pours and paws, and it’s only the context which allows us to understand the meaning.

The gift of the 15 minute timer by Someone for Christmas got me thinking more about time and its use. “Why don’t you do ….? I’m asked. “Because I chose to do other things which take up my time.” “So make time!” “Oh! But if I wanted to, I would.” And you remember that the sand pouring into the bottom half of the glass ……. paused!

My favourite animal with paws is Pooh Bear. Read “The Tao of Pooh” by Benjamin Hoof. It’ll help you understand in simplistic terms us humans. Here’s Pooh “standing … and … staring”:

“I say, Pooh, why aren’t you busy?” I said. “Because it’s a nice day,” said Pooh. “Yes, but …” “Why ruin it?” he said. “But you could be doing something important.” “I am,” said Pooh. “Oh? Doing what?” “Listening,” he said. “Listening to what?” “To the birds, and that squirrel over there.” “What are they saying?” I asked. “That it’s a nice day,” said Pooh “But you know that already.” I said. “Yes, but it’s always good to hear that somebody else thinks so too,” he replied.

There is a contradictory nature to our lives, with people singing about having ‘all the time in the world’ in one breath and in a second bemoaning about having wasted this precious dimension, as in ‘Lost, yesterday, somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours, each set with sixty diamond minutes. No reward is offered, for they are gone forever.’ (Horace Mann)

Our washing machine has a spin cycle that lasts for 13 minutes. When it indicates ‘1’ you imagine you have one minute before it bleeps and you can open the door. But this is an Italian machine and time can move slowly. That one minute can sometimes last 5; the frustration while waiting for it to turn to ‘0’ for the door to unlock can test the patience of a saint.

You’ve heard of the expression “As boring as waiting for paint to dry”? In August last year I heard of an experiment which has been running at the University of Queensland in Australia …. since 1930 ….. and it must be even more boring! It was set up by physicist Thomas Parnell to illustrate that although pitch (tar/bitumen) appears solid, shattering when hit with a hammer at room temperature, it is actually a very viscous liquid. A container of pitch was set up and they waited for a drop to form at the open bottom. They had a long wait – 8 years! By August 2014 the ninth drop had formed, having taken 13 years. And the sad thing? That the scientist overseeing the experiment for 50 years missed it three times – the last time in 2000 because a power cut put the recording instruments out of action!! Think of this experiment when you’re rushing around, not pausing between doing things!

Often one pauses to collect one’s thoughts, focus one’s actions – such as when you are about to serve in a game of tennis, or about to squeeze the trigger of a rifle, or when you are about to ‘go about’ when tacking on a yacht, to check that everyone/everything is ready. Or when a lion is on its tip-paws (aka tiptoes!) ready to launch itself at some potential prey.

Mere scribbles and thoughts!

Richard Yates – richardyates24@gmail.com


This PC comes with a warning label – do not not read!!

When I first started travelling abroad I used to buy traveller’s cheques and cash them as I need some money. Then came the ubiquitous credit card ….. and then the debit card.

During the first part of last year Celina and I spent 3 months here in Rio de Janeiro and every time I used my HSBC debit card I got charged a small fee, some 1.8% if my memory serves me well. Over the course of our stay that little percentage mounted up and became sizeable. On returning to the UK I investigated the various recommended cheaper options for taking money abroad. One of the most mentioned was a MyTravelCash card which you simply load up from your domestic bank, and use at an ATM to withdraw cash. You can use it for nothing else. If you chose to buy a sterling one, they charge you a transaction fee if you use it in the UK, but not if you use it overseas.

At the end of August last year we flew to Rio for another month – I know, it’s a tough life but someone has to keep British Airways flying. During our stay I used my MyTravelCash card to withdraw money and it felt safe! Before we flew out to the Pantanal for our wonderful trip to the world’s largest wetland, I checked my HSBC account. I had used the HSBC Debit card 6 times, buying Yoga sessions and paying for some meals in restaurants. I was overdrawn! Agghhh! Not possible! I went online, checked my statement and found someone had withdrawn cash on a total of 7 times through ATMs.

I won’t bore you with all the details, but I do recall Sineta from HSBC Bangalore saying over the telephone: “But Mr Yates! You have the card, you say you have not told the PIN to anyone …… so you must have withdrawn the cash! It’s not possible to do otherwise!!” Fortunately I then spoke to Kasim from their fraud department who told me there had been a couple of attempts to withdraw cash ….. in Miami …… while I was here in Brazil. Fortunately I got all the money back and picked up my new bank card when I returned to the UK.

On this trip I decided to use cash wherever and whenever I needed to. I knew that MyTravelCash card had a few hundred pounds on it, as I hadn’t used it in the UK. So today I put my MyTravelCash card into a bank ATM and …….. was surprised to find the balance much less than I thought it should be. Back at Celina’s parents’ house where we stay, I went onto the MyTravelCash website ….. to find that someone had taken cash out on three occasions, once here in Rio and three times in Miami, since October. So now that card is useless.

It seems that cash is king …… and that if you have a card, any card, no matter how careful you are with shielding your PIN and keeping the card in sight, you risk someone cloning it. I am at my wits end! Maybe I should go back to buying Traveller’s Cheques?

Needed to get this of my chest …….aaaaggggghhhhhhhh!!

Mere scribbles …… in the heat.

Love etc


P.S. Every time Celina used a bank card at Terminal 5 Duty Free she had some fraudulent transactions – and now only uses cash there

PC 31 Packaging and Frustration

Rio de Janeiro is hot at this time of year as it’s high summer, and the contrast after leaving the winter in Hove is startling.

On our second evening, completely unpacked, I stand in the hot bathroom vigorously using my electric toothbrush in the prescribed manner. I notice that the bottle of Listerine mouthwash (Zero Alcohol of course!) we brought out from England is unopened. My toothbrush is in my right hand but, being reasonably ambidextrous, I think I can multitask ….. despite being a man! Occasionally I’ve done more than two things at once; do I hear applause from you men (?) or is this drowned out by cries of disbelief from you women?

Anyway, the Listerine bottle has a childproof top (boy! sometimes it’s bloody adult proof) and one of those plastic wrappers with a thoughtful arrowed part down its side to make it easy to open. With my left hand I grasp the bottle and try using a fingernail to rip the plastic; I continue to clean my teeth. After some minutes, the only progress I’ve made is to change the colour of the plastic from clear to white …. but no rip! I give up. I finish my teeth cleaning, take a pair of nail-clippers from my bag and cut the plastic. Result!

It got me thinking of other times when I have really struggled with packaging. Some modern plastic is particularly strong, some very brittle. I was on a business trip to Japan some years ago and raided the hotel minibar before going out for dinner. That bloody plastic bag of peanuts! I remember spending some 10 minutes pulling, tearing, ripping ….. I would have died of hunger if I hadn’t stopped, glaring at the unopened bag which seemed to say: “I won!” (Or whatever the Japanese equivalent is?)

Celina loves French mustard and if we’re eating out somewhere it often comes in a little plastic sachet (we go to all the posh places!!). At the top it says “tear” – being helpful I guess. So you try and tear it – along that little dotted line. Nothing happens! You check you’re in the right place and try again. Nothing happens! In desperation you get a fork and push a tine into the plastic sachet – often with so much force that mustard squirts out in all directions! Agh!

My dear step-father Philip believed that if something was difficult to unscrew, you should tighten it first. The Gherkin glass jar top was tight; I tried tightening it but nothing happened. I knew if I put a rubber band around a top, I would get a better purchase. Nothing happened. There was a little pressure inside; I gripped and twisted, I gripped and tightened, I got my arms lower to get a better angle of attack ……. and after some 5 minutes eventually it popped open; I felt I had been in the gym!

Part of my daily medication is an Asprin and they come in a foil pack. For some reason better known to the manufacturer, the foil is quite thick. Actually I think there’s a micron of plastic on the underside of the foil for …. freshness?! Maybe they think Asprin is a dangerous drug as it is extremely difficult to push the little tablet out through the foil. If I had arthritic hands, it would have been impossible. Not sure why they aren’t sold in a simple plastic tub with a twist-off lid?

Whenever I see plastic simply elongating under the force from my hands, I think of Young’s Modulus of Elasticity. This English scientist proved that material will revert to its original shape once a force is removed, providing it has not past a certain point. If that point is exceeded, the material will ‘run’ until it breaks. Sometimes I think modern strong plastic hasn’t heard of Thomas Young!

I buy yoghurt in 500ml plastic containers (Yeo Valley if you’re interested!). It has a hard plastic cap, and then a flimsy piece that seals in the yoghurt. I take the corner and rip it off; most of the times I’m successful, but sometimes I end up with little strips of plastic. So I remove it all and put it in the bin. Sometime the next day you remember that those friendly people at Yeo Valley have printed the ‘use by’ date …… on the piece of plastic now in the bin!

I bought a bag of Pasta the other day ……. and it was a plastic bag. It had one of those little ‘replace for freshness’ stickers you could fold over the bag once you had taken some pasta out ….. but the type of plastic is too brittle, making it almost impossible to actually open the bag easily. The plastic rips and the pasta spills out. So you decant it into a container.

Before this rant ends, how about Cling Film? (glad wrap/pvc/plastic wrap) The most useful material in a kitchen but woe betide you if you don’t cut it cleanly. I’ve watched grown men and women weep at the frustration of trying to clear a piece/find the start/get it to come off the roll cleanly.

A year ago it was almost impossible to extract one brush from a pack of three Braun replacement electric toothbrushes; they’ve got much better!! Pray that the Listerine bottle will similarly improve. Just some idle thoughts for the new year.

Richard Yates – richardyates24@gmail.com

PC 30 – Nothing and Time

I started the after Christmas Thank You note with “Thanks for nothing!” … and I meant it. Because someone dear to me had given me …….nothing! It went something like:

Thank you for nothing. No, really, it was so so kind of you to give me nothing for Christmas. The vacuous thought that decided that nothing was appropriate was spot-on, I just love the empty, expurgated, expunged, evaporated plastic enclosure of nothing. It complements the sand timer someone else gave me, which for a reason better known to itself, measures 15 minutes of …… time! Maybe it measure 15 minutes of ….. nothing. I don’t know, ‘cos I know nothing.”

My bubble pack of ‘Nothing’ was ‘guaranteed to do absolutely nothing’ … and if something happened I was to return it for a full refund! So clever … to get someone to pay for …. nothing! I just had to share this with you as a fortnight after Christmas I’m still thinking about …. nothing!

This fifteen-minute measurer I’m just not sure about! That’s ten times the time it takes for my three eggs to boil every morning ….. only a sixth of my daily Bikram Yoga session …… more or less than the time it takes me to complete the Killer Sudoku puzzle as they vary in difficulty …. half the time it takes for the dishwasher to complete its business … Oh! I know! A timer to measure boiling an Ostrich egg? The giver feels I should recognise that “15 minutes is longer than we often give to many of the things we ostensibly think of as so important.”!

I’ve upturned the timer by my laptop, to measure the time it takes to write this PC. Have you ever read a dictionary definition of ‘time’? “Indefinite continuous duration regarded as a dimension in which a sequence of events takes place, but it has a finite duration as distinct from eternity.” Oh! Yes! It’s a dimension. Space and time have their own peculiarities. Space has three dimensions; length breadth and height but Time has only one, from the past through the present to the future. It is inevitable, unrepeatable and irreversible.

Time? You can’t physically feel it, touch it, but you know it passes …er …. as sure as day leads into night? Well! Of course; the early humans recognised there was a pattern, a rhythm to this earthly existence and they called it time.

In Yoga one of the postures is Savasana or ‘dead-body pose’ in which you are meant to lie still, unresponsive to sweat dripping or muscles aching or a nose needing twitching (well, you get the drift?), clearing your mind of stuff so that nothing takes its place. Going from ‘mindful’ to ‘mindless’! So easy to do – not! And still the clock ticks …..

But guess what? The timer’s stopped!! No! Really! The sand was in too much of a hurry to get into the bottom glass …….  and the grains got jammed! Uncle Tommy gave it a nudge and off it went again …… but this time measuring more than 15 minutes!

There are so many good quotations concerning time and why not! It affects all of us who are alive, all of the ….. er ….. time, even when we’re thinking of nothing. I love Brutus in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: “There is a time in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of one’s life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea am I now afloat, and I must take the current when it serves or lose my venture”. The nautical theme echoes in “Time and tide wait for no man”

In my post major surgery existence, my time seems to be measured by the bloody box of medication! Every week I fill it up with the morning and evening pills (the betablockers, statins and other stuff which my doctor says I must take)  Suddenly the box is empty again, there’s nothing in it and I have to go through the whole rigmarole again of filling it up. Another week of my life just gone. So much for Louis Armstrong’s “We have all the time in the world.” Not true!

I recently was challenged by someone who had a very contrary view to me about life. I couldn’t crudely dismiss their view as it was earnestly put but what was before this life, and what was after this life, was/is surely better than life itself? I tried to make light of this in conversation, as for me life is for living, in every way possible, sucking the very breath out of it, and whilst I accept that death is inevitable, it’ll come soon enough I don’t need to think about it … or prepare for it!! “Before” I might have been a pig; “after” I might be a flying pig, even pink! But right now is my time, my life; as sure as eggs are eggs (ostrich eggs?) my time will come to an end ……… but time itself will simply run on …. and on.

Richard Yates – richardyates24@gmail.com