Saturday 19 October 2013

Winnie-the-Pooh from a psychologist's point of view

I had a thought earlier this week (dangerous, I know, and I don't know how original): "What if a modern educational psychologist was let loose on the characters of Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne? They would all be diagnosed with various disorders." Think about it:
Winnie-the-Pooh illustrated by E. H. Shepard
Symptoms: Likes honey - perhaps a bit too much.
Disorder: Obesity.

Tigger illustrated by E. H. Shepard
Symptoms: Bounces around a lot.
Disorder: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Owl illustrated by E. H. Shepard
Symptoms: Can't spell properly.
Disorder: Dyslexia.

Eeyore illustrated by E. H. Shepard
Symptoms: He's sad and gloomy much of the time.
Disorder: Clinical depression.

Piglet, Rabbit, Winnie-the-Pooh, Kanga and Roo illustrated by E. H. Shepard
Symptoms: He's a bit thick.
Disorder: Learning disability / emotional problems.

Kanga and Roo illustrated by E. H. Shepard
Symptoms: She's a fussy and worried mother.
Disorder: Obsessive-compulsive disorder / over-protective single mother.

Piglet illustrated by E. H. Shepard
Symptoms: She gets a bit worried and panicked sometimes.
Disorder: Social anxiety disorder / panic attacks.

Christopher Robin
Christopher Robin, Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet illustrated by E. H. Shepard
Symptoms: He talks to his stuffed toys.
Disorder: Schizophrenia.

Other characters I haven't figured out yet:

Rabbit and Winnie-the-Pooh illustrated by E. H. Shepard
Rabbit's friends and relations
Rabbit's friends and relations illustrated by E. H. Shepard

Thursday 29 August 2013

My 2012 10Q answers

I've been doing this exercise in personal reflection every September since 2010 (see also my 2011 answers). Here's what I was thinking this time last year.

Some of my answers are too embarrassing or personal for public consumption, so I have edited them.

Day 1:
Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?

My answer:
I was a volunteer performer in the London 2012 Olympics Opening and Closing Ceremonies. I was a drummer and athlete marshall. It took over my life from 23 May until 22 August. I took 14.5 holidays from work in order to attend every single rehearsal. There were about 30 rehearsals and show days (I forget exactly how many because the original schedule changed as we went along) - about 150 hours of rehearsals in total. A lot of standing around waiting, but also probably the best times of my life.

I'm incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to take part, to have had the understanding from my boss at work to allow me the flexibility to take days off as and when required, sometimes at short notice. I went seven straight weeks without a 5-day working week!

It was deeply inspiring working with the mass movement team, including Steve Boyd, who has been involved in every Olympics since Barcelona 1992 - including Winter Olympics. He is simply the best at what he does in the world. Right from the very first audition, I was imbued with the Olympic spirit - and this was back in November 2011! I knew from the first audition that it was going to be special, that London would make us proud.

And I was so, so proud. Pride came bursting out of my face for days afterwards. I was an emotional wreck. I cried tears of joy, exhaustion, pride, inspiration, admiration. It wasn't necessarily a national pride, although I'm glad we showed a side of Britain that I can identify with and be proud of. It was a pride in humanity, of people coming together and creating something memorable, moving, scary, awesome (in the God-fearing sense of the word); something so deeply, utterly human.

There was no one single moment, but an ongoing, semi-secret cascade of moments of joy and wonder and utter delight - as well as the odd bit of boredom and frustration. I could go on and on about this...

Day 2:
Is there something that you wish you had done differently this past year? Alternatively, is there something you're especially proud of from this past year?

My answer:
This is a tough one because I'm both proud of the courage I had and somewhat regret the effect that my actions have had on a relationship. [...]

I wasn't all that attracted to her immediately, but I liked it when she smiled at me [...]. I think that's what caused my feelings towards her to change.

I started to develop a crush on her. She invited me to a summer barbecue at her house. I felt we were starting to make a connection, that we had stuff in common. But I wasn't sure of the etiquette of relationships [...]. I did a lot of reading around on Ask Me-Fi, trying to figure out if it would be OK for me to ask her out. I was aware that [...] if things didn't go well it could make things awkward for us [...].

I spent a whole weekend pondering it during Euro 2012. And then one evening I dared myself that if Germany scored, I'd ask her out by text message. I was pleased when Germany did score, so I asked her if she'd like to go out on a date with me. She said it was sweet of me to ask but that her affections were otherwise engaged - I think with an ex-boyfriend I'd met at the barbecue (I'm not sure, to be honest, and it's not really any of my business anymore).

I never mentioned it [when I saw her again]. I'd chickened out of asking her [in person], although there was a narrow opportunity [...] one day. I didn't do it. Maybe it would have been different in person. But still to this day we haven't spoken about it or acknowledged it in person.

A few weeks later I asked her out on an undate to see a Woody Allen documentary, but again she said no - I think because she had other plans, but that may have been an excuse.

Things have been a bit weird. We don't talk as much. She's started teaming up with another guy [we both know].

Day 3:
Think about a major milestone that happened with your family this past year. How has this affected you?

My answer:
My dad has been ill again. He's been in and out of hospital a number of times due to the after effects of his kidney transplant on 4 July 2009.

One time I went home only to learn that he'd been taken to hospital. I was looking forward to a weekend together - a family reunion - but he was in hospital, so I went to visit him a few times.

My mum sometimes doesn't tell me when things are bad or when he's ill. I suppose I don't need to know, but I'd like to be able to send him my thoughts. I think I deal with it quite well. It helps being somewhat removed in Oxford when they are in Bristol. I don't worry about it. I just hope that if it is serious, they let me know in time.

Day 4:
Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?

My answer:
The Olympics was pretty big. See my answer to Day 1. I felt like I was at the centre of the world during the Opening Ceremony. On show, but also totally anonymous amongst the 1,000 drummers and thousands of other volunteers. I remember just feeling so serene during the actual performance. The big moments had come during rehearsals and the dress rehearsals. On the big night, I knew everything would go well. We were so well rehearsed. I wasn't nervous, wasn't even that excited. But the after-show euphoria lasted for three or four days afterwards. I don't think I've ever been as euphoric for that long a period of time before. Wonderful!

Day 5:
Have you had any particularly spiritual experiences this past year? How has this experience affected you? "Spiritual" can be broadly defined to include secular spiritual experiences: artistic, cultural, and so forth.

My answer:
My spiritual experiences came during the Olympics. In rehearsals I had some major highs. One was Wet Thursday, so called because we were on the field of play in the stadium, rehearsing for the athletes' parade in the pouring rain. I came prepared with a good rain coat, waterproof trousers and beanie hat. I was warm and dry. And very happy. Some people were missing. Others left after the tea break. But for those of us who stayed, we were rewarded with an amazing lifting of mood. Instead of getting more tired and dreary after the tea break, they started to play the music and it gave everyone this amazing energy and pep. I didn't care about the rain. I was comfortable, happy, excited, having an insider's experience of the world's biggest creative, cultural secret. It was blissful.

There were others, such as hearing the poppies music properly for the first time, making me cry. Seeing the Olympic rings fizz with pyro - a thing so, so beautiful, like the beautiful French woman describing how beautiful the high wire walker looked when walking between the two towers of the World Trade Center. There's this aching, bursting feeling of joy and wonder and love. Hard to describe. Wonderful to feel.

Day 6:
Describe one thing you'd like to achieve by this time next year. Why is this important to you?

My answer:
I'd like to be promoted to the South-West Group as a referee. I said this last year, but missed out again for the second year in a row. I think I'm ready. I just need to prove it when I get the chance in a Level 5 game. I had a bad day in my Level 5 game at the end of last year, which effectively ruined my chances. I thought I'd done OK until the match observer ripped me a new one in the debriefing. It hit me for six. I wasn't expecting it. The crowd were horrible, too. I don't respond all that well to adversity. It doesn't motivate me as much as it should if I'm going to be an elite athlete.

I'd also like to go to Brazil, if my plans to be in Olinda for carnival next February work out. I need to start planning for it. I think I'd have more spiritual, musical experiences out there. I have an appetite for them at the moment. I love my drumming because it's a physical, emotional thing.

Day 7:
How would you like to improve yourself and your life next year? Is there a piece of advice or counsel you received in the past year that could guide you?

My answer:
Nothing springs to mind at the moment. I'm getting better with my sleeping patterns. I get tired and fall asleep earlier in the evening now, so I can't always stay up late (he writes at 01:15!).

I think I'd like to feel fitter, tighter - particularly in my upper body. I'd feel better about myself if I ate better - stop eating crisps and sweets and chocolates - particularly at the weekends and after rugby. I'd like pecs and guns and a six pack. I need to work for it, but I'm too tired, too lazy most of the time to make those habits.

I'm fit for rugby - particularly after the European Touch Championships. I did my first game back last weekend and it felt easy. My match fitness felt great. But I feel and look a bit chubby sometimes, a bit soft. I'd like a harder body. I do like the look of A&F models...

Day 8:
Is there something (a person, a cause, an idea) that you want to investigate more fully in 2013?

My answer:
I want to study maracatu drumming in Brazil. When I say "study", I mean watch and be allowed to join in. I want to feel what it's like in a proper maracatu band.

I'd like to get to know Darwin Franks better over the coming year. I met him at Caspar Henderson's book launch last night. He's one of Roman's friends - his neighbour, even - but I've never met him before. We hit it off right away. I think I may have a new friend. So, yeah, I'd like to get to know Darwin better over the next year.

Day 9:
What is a fear that you have and how has it limited you? How do you plan on letting it go or overcoming it in the coming year?

My answer:
I don't have all that many fears left. I asked a girl out much sooner than I've had the courage to do before. I even made it explicit that I was asking her out on a date.

I've also become less afraid of my boss at work. I no longer assume I've done something wrong when he asks to speak to me.

I guess I'm still sometimes afraid to speak to my brother, Gregory. It's hard when he doesn't respond. Am I afraid of him, of what he might say or do to me? Am I afraid of learning the details of what he's done to other members of my family that I've been protected from? Maybe I don't want to break that barrier. Maybe it's better not to know.

I don't have many fears. Maybe dancing is one. Not sure if it's a fear, but it is certainly a hang-up, something I'm self-conscious about.

I could get over it by asking if someone like Bethan could take me out for a night of dancing. Maybe I'm afraid of drinking, too, of what it would do to me if I started drinking. I'm pretty sure that if I did start drinking I'd probably be able to sleep with women. But for some reason I'm reluctant to let my guard down that way. I want to get to know people the right way, for the right reason. Maybe people don't trust me enough when I'm sober. I don't know about that and how I feel about it. Not sure if I ever want to drink. I'm stubborn.

Day 10:
When September 2013 rolls around and you receive your answers to your 10Q questions, how do you think you'll feel? What do you think/hope might be different about your life and where you're at as a result of thinking about and answering these questions?

My answer:
I'll probably cringe at the stuff about [the girl I asked out]. It won't be appropriate to publish that on my blog. I continue to hope that I might be in a relationship. It's been over 12 years since I've had sex now. I was 17 then. 17! I'm now 29. I've never had sex as an adult - not with anyone else, anyway! I really can't publish this stuff now!

Again, I doubt answering these questions will have a major impact on my life. They are more of a recording than a catalyst.

I will feel pride reading about the Olympics. I tried to live it rather than record it. Maybe I could have blogged or written about my experiences. But there wasn't the time or the energy. I didn't take that many pictures or take opportunities to have my photo taken with or to meet celebrities. I don't go in for that kind of stuff.

Day 11:
What are your predictions for 2013?

My answer:
Love. Brazil. Promotion. Dancing? New monarch?


If you want to record your own answers this year, visit

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Save Virunga National Park

Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo
Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo. © Brent Stirton / Reportage by Getty Images / WWF-Canon.
Oil companies want to exploit Virunga National Park, a World Heritage Site in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This will damage rainforests, volcanoes and rare and beautiful wildlife such as mountain gorillas, lions, elephants, hippos, chimps and okapi.

Where do we draw the line? Right here.

Click the button below to sign the petition and stop oil exploration in Virunga:

Sign the petition

Monday 1 July 2013

How not to build links

A couple of comments appeared in my moderation queue this morning. They are a perfect example of how not to build links.

The spammy link to "seo services london" points to, a site which claims to cover ::ahem:: "White Hat and Transparent SEO".

I love how the second attempted comment includes the template that the poster couldn't even be bothered to edit. Good work, "SEO London Services", good work!

Update: 2 July 2013:

It doesn't stop there; nor does the illiteracy:

Saturday 25 May 2013

John Terry is shameless!

John Terry shameless Champions League Final 2013 Wembley
John Terry shamelessly celebrating Bayern Munich's 2-1 Champions League Final victory at Wembley against Borussia Dortmund on Saturday 25 May 2013. He even wasn't playing, but when has that ever stopped him before?

Saturday 20 April 2013

Charities: who wants my money?

throwing down the gauntlet
Source: "throwing down the gauntlet" by Mathieu Struck on Flickr.

I'm doubling my "foreign aid" (i.e. charitable giving) budget in the next year from 0.49% of my GPP (gross personal product) to 1%. This is deliberately higher than the 0.7% GNP that developed countries are supposed to contribute towards international development. I remember thinking in Modern Studies class that 0.7% was a ridiculously low amount to give in aid. True story.

The upshot is that I'm on the lookout for another charity to support with a monthly contribution. My criteria are few but demanding: 1) the charity has to impress me and 2) I don't want them to pester me and waste resources sending me stuff through the mail or by email.

Oxfam pushed the right buttons a few years ago with their £5 a month campaign. Who will it be this time?

I'll also be doubling my usual donation amount to anyone I know who is doing a sponsored something.

Gauntlet thrown.