The most stationary of all stationery items, scissors hate to be hurried. I learned this as a child. You did too, probably. Don't run with scissors. A clear and simple instruction. Pencils, glue, staples... no problem. For them, like us, it's a finite existence. Time is short so don't dilly dally. But don't run with scissors.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

up in smoke

It’s the time of year when firework displays are commonplace in the UK, as part of the traditional 5th November celebration of the evisceration of a group of 17th Century Catholics.

So this evening I went to a firework display.

In the grounds of a hospice.

The smell of hotdogs, the sounds of excited children and crying babies, and the sky – alive with explosions of bejewelled gunpowder.

Cheek-by-jowl with people in the latter stages of terminal cancer.

For many of those there, it was their first ever firework display.

For others, their last.

It gave me pause for thought.

Like a lot of people I can, when so inclined, list my problems, worries and regrets until the cows come home. Things I’ve done and wished I hadn’t. Things I somehow haven’t got round to doing.

Bridges I’ve burned. Troubles I’ve caused.

It wasn't my first ever firework display and, unless fate has something in store for me, it won’t be my last.

It seems trite to say things like count your blessings. Or it’s never too late.

But there is more than a grain of authenticity in that outlook.

Staring at a burned bridge won't get you back where you came from.

The fireworks were impressive.

The evening was humbling.

Photo courtesy of

Saturday, 9 October 2010

life and death

Most of us are conceived in the heat of the moment. The result of an impassioned tryst between our parents. And regardless of at what point you think life actually begins, it starts in a heartbeat.

For most of us living in the First World, the most likely cause of death will be age-related, or an ailment brought on by lifestyle choices.

But that’s not always the way.

I found myself reflecting on this just the other day. My morning commute to work is a drive of around 45 minutes which on this particular day involved driving past the scene of a road traffic accident.

Two police cars. One fire engine. A car. A woman sitting on the crash-barrier at the side of the road with the most desolate look on her face. Pools of blood covered hastily by absorbent cloths. And a body. Hidden beneath a dark tarpaulin.

The face of the woman, presumably the driver of the car that had collided with the now lifeless individual, stayed with me all day.

As did the thought of the friends and family of the person who lost their life in that scene. Who that person was I am unlikely to ever know.

But it is likely their day started like most people’s. A rush to get ready for work. Coffee perhaps. Maybe breakfast. A quick goodbye kiss for their husband or wife, and children perhaps… “see you later,” someone no doubt said.

As I sat at my desk just a short while after passing the accident site, I thought of those left behind. Their day had started, they would be on their way to work, to school, to wherever their morning was taking them. Blissfully unaware that life had changed irrevocably.

Few of us know when the end is coming and have the bitter-sweet opportunity to say our farewells, make our peace with the world.

Take nothing for granted.

It starts in a heartbeat.

It ends that way too.