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I chatted to Izobel about Food Banks this Christmas.

We agreed how lucky we are.

Not to have to use them.

And Izobel and I also agreed that we’d go shopping and buy bags of lovely food and drink for the poorer children and their families that we’d drop off at one or maybe even all of our 4 local food banks.

But we didn’t do it.

We forgot.

Because Home Alone came on.

Food Banks. 

I feel funny about this subject.

The fact that there are more Food Banks than there are McDonalds and Burger Kings combined in the UK.

The fact that there are 4 food banks within 5 miles of my house. (Find yours here).

The fact that there are 2,000 food banks in total the UK.

And the fact that 1.4 million people use them each year.

The fact that Izobel’s should understand poverty, it’s causes and how we can can help.

The fact that we just couldn’t be arsed helping out this Christmas.

Because Home Alone came on.

I feel funny about all of that.

£20

Anyhow.

I did this in January.

I called a local food bank and I asked them a question.

I asked if I could order food from ASDA.

And have it delivered to them.

They said yes.

So I did.

It took £20.

And 20 minutes.

You.

If you want to do it too.

Please find your local food banks.

(Go here).

And off you go.

Izobel. 

I will take Izobel.

But in the meantime.

I feel slightly better because I did what I did.

And because you might do it too.

When I look at rubbish online.

Facebook.

Twitter.

Porn.

Random videos of people falling over.

I can feel myself getting weaker.

I can feel myself starting to curl.

Curl.

I can actually feel the curling.

Like a drying, dying leaf.

I feel the decay.

Because I’m hungry for nourishment.

I’m hungry for the uplift that useful information gives me.

But I get drawn in.

I get drawn in to a double-whammy of crapness.

The crap I look at.

Then the crap I feel because I looked at crap.

And that’s when I can feel myself starting to curl.

Guilt.

Guilt has a lot to do with it.

I feel guilty.

Empty.

Bored.

And a tiny bit angry too.

Angry at the ‘other me’.

The other me that taps and swipes and taps and swipes some more.

Desperately looking for something to save me from the dross.

Instead of just hitting the off button.

Screen time. 

My average daily screen time in 2019 was over 8 hours.

Sometimes much more.

Embarrassing, really.

It is time to disconnect.

And reconnect.

Chemists played an interesting role in my childhood.

Chemists, and the sweets that you could buy there.

Because as a very young child in the 70’s, ‘Chemist Sweets’ were.

Somehow.

The most desirable sweets of all.

Chemist Sweets

Liquorice Root.

I am still not sure exactly what it is or was.

Or if I really do like it.

But I do know that I craved it as a child.

Even though it sometimes made me heave like a cat.

Liquorice Root was only available in chemists.

Just like Glucose Tablets.

And Glucose Lollies.

And Horlicks Tablets in tubes.

(Wow. 

Remember them?

Horlicks Tablets in tubes).

And Lucozade in the orange crinkly transparent plastic film.

(How did Lucozade go from the medicine to cure every child’s ill?

To the first energy drink?

Blame Daley Thompson.

And the marketers).

Chemists. 

Chemists.

Excellent places.

Mysterious and grown up places.

Don’t.

Touch.

Anything!

Especially when this tune came along in the 80’s.

In 1982 in fact.

When I was 14 years old.

Sheesh!

What is he going on about?

An actual song about Chemist Sweets?

Oh.

No.

Oh no…

All of a sudden I am 14 again.

They’re not sweets he’s singing about.

Are they…?

Here’s the tune: https://www.50odd.co.uk/chemists/

 

I have this other business as I think you know.

Called Always Wear Red.

Always Wear Red has its own e-newsletter now.

Called DOWNTIME.

It is twice-monthly.

Sent every other Friday at midday.

Is a 60-second read.

And it is your Permission to Pause.

Here’s How It Works.

DOWNTIME encourages you to do between 60 seconds and 60 minutes of – well – nothing.

For 3 Reasons:

  1. Because you are the person you look after least well. And resting (properly) is an immediate way to begin sorting this out.
  2. Because times we do nothing always generate our best notions and ideas.
  3. Because you always do ‘something’ better after a short period of ‘nothing’.

In Summary, the Times You Do Nothing – Can Mean Everything.

And DOWNTIME contains great things to do when you’re doing nothing.

DOWNTIME.

If you get it already.

Please let me know what you think.

And if you don’t get it.

But like the sound of it.

Please sign up here.

Thank you.

Last week.

On a cold Wednesday morning.

I was sent to the headmaster’s office.

At a school that Izobel might move to when she finishes nursery later this year.

The Headmaster. 

The last time this happened.

I thought to myself.

As I clip-clopped down a brightly lit and unusually narrow corridor.

I was twatted on the arse with a slipper.

(I was 14.

It wasn’t my fault.

It was the others.

But I got twatted anyway).

Slipper Shite.

When I met the headmaster last Wednesday morning.

I relaxed.

He was much smaller than me.

So if he started any of that slipper shite this time.

I’d have him.

Mr Whateverhisnamewas.

I remember focusing on the headmaster’s last name.

More than his first name.

And when I spoke to him.

I did actually call him Mr. Whateverhisnnamewas.

Because that’s what you do with headmasters.

No matter how old you are.

The Presentation. 

There was a presentation.

In a too small room.

Containing too many people.

To my left, there was a gymnasium.

Four year olds bounced up and down like kangaroos.

Then wriggled like snakes.

Then hopped like rabbits on their haunches.

I smiled at the innocence.

And the safety.

And it did feel safe.

That was what mattered most to me on last week’s cold Wednesday morning.

And any morning, actually.

Izobel’s safety.

The Tapestry.

Then, I glanced to my right.

To the only thing that furnished any wall in this small, dimly lit room.

A colourful tapestry.

Home made.

(Well.

School made).

And I focused on the first three words I saw.

The words were:

Vegans.

Muslims.

And

Lesbians.

Vegans, Muslims and Lesbians. 

In my lifetime.

A bit like an episode of Blankety Blank.

There have been periods where perhaps the most popular word to prefix with any of these three words.

Was, ‘bloody’.

I smiled as this thought entered my head.

And I closed my eyes in the half-light.

Unnoticed.

I smiled as I realised that this is the school that.

If I chose it.

Would help my four year old daughter.

To understand in probably as much detail as she dug for.

What it felt like to be a bouncy kangaroo.

Or a wriggly snake.

Or a hopping rabbit.

Or a Vegan.

A Muslim.

Or a Lesbian.

The Test. 

I have faced many tests in schools, colleges and universities.

Some I passed.

Some I failed.

But none was ever as poignant as the test I faced on a cold Wednesday morning last week.

A test of whether I wanted my four year old to be indulged and indeed encouraged to imagine and explore the feelings of kangaroos, snakes, rabbits, vegans, Muslims and lesbians.

The test was a poignant one.

But rather an easy one, too.

And I passed.

Izobel starts there in September.

He’s 14.

You’re feeling nervous, aren’t you, boy?
With your quiet voice and impeccable style
Don’t ever let them steal your joy
And your gentle ways, to keep ’em from running wild
They can kick dirt in your face
Dress you down, and tell you that your place
Is in the middle, when they hate the way you shine
I see you tugging on your shirt
Trying to hide inside of it and hide how much it hurts
Let ’em laugh while they can
Let ’em spin, let ’em scatter in the wind
I have been to the movies, I’ve seen how it ends
And the joke’s on them

Here we go: https://www.50odd.co.uk/benicio/. 

 

 

If you run a business.

There are two furious battles being fought.

The Business Battle.

And the Brand Battle.

And if you want to win big.

You need to win both.

The Business Battle.

To win the Business Battle you should be simple.

Great quality.

Relevant (now).

Desired.

All the numbers need to stack up.

You need to be efficient too.

And you need to be doing something that you can do as well as.

(Or ideally better than).

Anyone else in the same space.

Oh; and whatever you are doing should be contributive.

It should also contribute to the greater good.

Because that’s what consumers increasingly expect.

Results.

And finally in the Business Battle.

The results of what you do should be crystal clear.

Memorable.

Interesting.

And engaging.

The Brand Battle.

The Brand Battle is quite different to the Business Battle.

And as such it requires an entirely different set of skills and experiences to maximise.

The Brand Battle is something that all businesses have to face.

But the Brand Battle is something that very few businesses know how to win.

Because of a lack of high level brand building knowledge.

And because very few have the commitment to see world class brand building through.

Connect.

Put simply.

The Brand Battle is how well you connect.

It is looking outward.

Out into the hearts and minds of the consumer.

Then, it is creating better and more compelling perceptions around the business offer.

Perceptions that will really connect and resonate with all those that we want to buy you.

And buy into you.

Consumers.

Consumers.

Today more than ever.

Want to know what is important to you.

Because they want to check that what is important to you.

Is also important to them.

And this is a big part of winning the Brand Battle.

Brand Stories.

Then, once you have a great brand.

They want you to brand storytell brilliantly.

Because the best way to get people to be interested in you.

Is to be interesting.

Two Battles. 

So there you have it.

If you want to win big.

You have two battles to win.

And you’ll likely need two very different teams to win them.

The most intriguing thing about freedom.

Is that it is not free.

Craving.

Craving more freedom.

Is the main reason people explore starting their own business.

Financial freedom.

Freedom to do what they want with their time.

Freedom of choice.

Which is quite odd.

Because the thing I have had least of.

At the beginning of any business I have ever founded.

(And I have founded nine businesses).

Is freedom.

Freedom. 

Freedom is more valuable than almost anything else in your entire life.

And nothing that is valuable ‘just happens’.

So of course freedom is not free.

Be patient.

You have to earn it.

One morning.

When Dougie the Dog awoke.

He was unusually tired.

Uph!

Said Dougie.

As he sat upright from his pillow and looked around the empty kitchen.

I didn’t sleep very well at all.

Dougie moved slowly from his bed.

Stretched.

Blinked three times.

Sat down.

Thought a thought.

Then asked out-loud to nobody in particular.

Where’s my bone?

A frown appeared on Dougie’s already quite wrinkly face.

As he rose to his four furry feet.

And wandered off.

Bone-seeking.

Cat.

First of all, Dougie squeezed through the cat flap.

This was quite easy for Dougie.

As he was quite a small dog.

Just outside.

Dougie saw cat.

And he sat down next to her.

Hello cat.

Said Dougie.

Where’s my bone?

He asked.

Have you seen my bone?

Then.

Remembering his manners.

Dougie added,

Please.

Cat was washing her face with her paw.

Slowly.

Cat didn’t turn her head towards Dougie to answer him.

But she did roll her eyes in his direction.

So she could see Dougie more clearly.

Cat paused from her paw licking and hissed,

No.

Then she hissed again,

I haven’t seen your bone.

Dougie wasn’t surprised.

Cat was rarely interested in anybody else’s business except her own.

So Dougie stood up and said,

Sorry cat.

I didn’t mean to be any trouble.

And remembering his manners once more, he said,

Thank you.

Before wandering off.

Further down the garden.

Bird.

As he wandered slowly along.

Dougie looked up.

And in the lowest branch of the apple tree.

Sitting on a tiny, twiggy nest.

He saw bird.

Dougie sat down.

Close to the apple tree.

Under bird’s nest.

Hello bird.

Said Dougie.

Where’s my bone?

He asked.

Have you seen my bone?

Then.

Again remembering that people are far more likely to help you.

If you remember your manners.

Dougie added,

Please.

Bird was warming her egg.

By sitting on it.

Bird did a little whistle.

As if to clear her throat.

Tweet!

Then, she nodded her head down ever so slightly.

And ever so slowly.

And sang,

No.

Bird was very quietly spoken.

And Dougie’s hearing was not what it used to be.

So Dougie replied,

Pardon, bird?

To which bird squawked.

This time much more loudly.

And with her neck pushed out as far as she possibly could towards Dougie,

No!

I haven’t seen your bone!

Dougie wobbled backwards.

He was still a little tired, you see.

So he was quite easily startled.

Dougie blinked.

Three times.

And said,

Sorry bird.

I didn’t mean to be any trouble.

And remembering his manners once again, Dougie said,

Thank you.

Before wandering off towards compost heap.

Hedgehog.

Compost heap was at the very bottom of the garden.

Compost heap was as far away from the house as Dougie ever went these days.

Dougie liked compost heap.

It reminded him of when he was a puppy.

Because when Dougie was a puppy.

He used to jump in compost heap.

Spreading it’s leaves all over the garden.

These days however.

A much older and a much tireder Dougie.

Would just walk up to compost heap.

Slowly.

And sit down.

And that is what Dougie did today.

Hello hedgehog.

Said Dougie.

Even though he couldn’t actually see hedgehog.

Dougie knew hedgehog wouldn’t be far away.

Because hedgehog was never far away from compost heap.

And Dougie was right.

Within just a few seconds.

Leaves rustled.

Twigs crackled.

And a small, prickly ball rolled slowly out from compost heap.

Hello hedgehog.

Said Dougie for a second time.

And as he did, hedgehog’s nose slowly emerged from the prickly, grey ball.

Twitchy.

Whiskery.

Shiny and black.

Then, hedgehog’s eyes appeared.

Tiny and half-open.

Hedgehog’s mouth was closed tight.

And hedgehog stared.

Right.

At.

Dougie.

Dougie asked,

Where’s my bone?

Quickly adding,

Please.

Have you seen my bone?

Hedgehog’s tiny, shiny black nose started to twitch.

Just a little bit.

And hedgehog spoke.

Dougie.

Said hedgehog.

You really are a scatterbrain.

Dougie blinked.

Three times.

Dougie remembered that hedgehog had called him a scatterbrain before.

But he couldn’t quite remember why.

Or when.

Oh.

Said Dougie.

Am I?

Am I a scatterbrain?

Hedgehog responded to this quite quickly.

And quite loudly.

Yes.

You.

Are.

Hedgehog unrolled completely from the prickly ball that he always became when he snoozed.

And in a move which took quite some effort from quite a little hedgehog.

Hedgehog rose to his two tiny back feet.

Leant forward.

Looked into Dougie’s two sleepy eyes.

And in a much kinder tone said,

You didn’t sleep very well last night.

Did you Dougie?

You didn’t sleep very well at all.

Dougie looked back at hedgehog. 

And slowly shook his head.

Hedgehog then plopped back down onto his four feet.

Looked up at the still seated Dougie and said with a smile,

Follow me.

Hedgehog began to wiggle his way towards the house.

In the way that hedgehogs do.

Wiggling.

And Dougie followed close behind.

Slowly.

After a while, hedgehog walked past bird.

Bird tweeted,

Oh my goodness!

Not again.

Hedgehog smiled at bird.

Silently.

And he wiggled on.

Hedgehog then walked past cat.

Cat hissed,

Ha!

Adding,

Again?

Hedgehog again said nothing.

He did smile at cat, though.

Before glancing back over his shoulder to make sure that Dougie was still following.

Which he was.

And on they went.

Through the catflap.

Hedgehog sat down in the kitchen.

Right next to Dougie’s bed.

And Dougie did too.

Hedgehog spoke first,

Dougie.

Said hedgehog.

Why didn’t you sleep very well last night?

Dougie thought for a moment.

Then replied,

It’s my pillow.

It’s not very soft.

Hedgehog leaned in to Dougie so that their two, shiny black noses almost touched.

And hedgehog said,

Dougie.

Take a look under your pillow.

Dougie stared back at Hedgehog.

Blinked three times.

Then rose to his four furry feet.

Walked slowly to his pillow.

Lifted a corner.

And took a look underneath.

And from a little way off behind him.

Dougie heard hedgehog ask,

Well?

Dougie looked back over his shoulder.

Dougie smiled at hedgehog and said,

I did it again didn’t I.

I am a scatterbrain.

Dougie turned back to his pillow.

Reached underneath it.

And pulled out.

Guess what?

His bone.

Dougie blushed.

But he started to tremble.

Because Dougie remembered how cat had hissed at him.

And Dougie remembered how bird had squawked at him.

And he was worried what hedgehog would do.

Especially as Dougie had woken hedgehog up from compost heap.

And made him wiggle all the way to the house.

Dougie turned to hedgehog.

And in a quiet.

Worried.

Wobbly voice said,

I’m sorry hedgehog.

I didn’t mean to be any trouble.

At first.

Hedgehog said nothing.

But suddenly.

His tiny, shiny black hedgehog nose started to twitch.

Just a little bit.

And in a move which took quite some effort from quite a little hedgehog.

Hedgehog rose to his two tiny back feet.

Leant forward.

Looked deep into Dougie’s two sleepy eyes.

And said,

Dougie.

You are no trouble.

You are my friend.

Hedgehog kissed Dougie on his black, shiny nose.

Dougie blinked.

Three times.

And smiled.

Hedgehog plopped back down onto his four feet.

And scurried out of the catflap.

Dougie, remembering his manners once again.

But a little too late for his friend hedgehog to hear.

Whispered,

Thank you.

Before popping his bone back under his pillow.

Lying down.

And with a grateful, happy smile.

Dougie fell back to sleep.

The main reason.

That I don’t get around to doing important things.

Or that important things can sometimes feel unpleasant to do.

Is because of sardines.

Sardines. 

Identifying something that is important me.

Then squashing it into my day.

Like a sardine in a tin.

Is daft.

But I do do this.

Stupid.

I think of something that I’d like to get done.

Or something that I need to get done.

Then I very often do one of these two things:

  1. Allocate too little time to doing it properly.
  2. Sandwich it. Like a sardine in a tin. Between two other things. So that there is no time to explore. Or innovate. Or get creative with it. Or polish it.

Daft.

Important. 

This is me talking to me now.

Look.

If something is important to you.

Pause.

Make time to do it.

Properly.

Forget sardines.

Otherwise you’ll just feel resentful that it didn’t get done properly.

Or resentful that it didn’t get done at all.

And frustrated that there is no one to blame.

But yourself.

More Time.

If something is important.

Allocate more time than you think you’ll need.

Not less.

Squashing important things together like sardines is daft.

So stop it.