Come Sun or Cloud…

Given that I’ve not long been back from an extended holiday period in Italy, I found it interesting that I should have the following insight in my own back garden only a couple of days ago…

It is very simple and frankly, I’m amazed it has never occurred to me before but then that is the nature of some thoughts – one day it simply dawns on you doesn’t it?

Anyway, the other day it was shaping up to be quite a pleasant sunny afternoon. So I took my lunch outside, sat on a chair and picked the bits of meat and cheese off my plate. When I had finished, I realised it was a lot hotter than I had anticipated and removed my shirt, soon followed by the t-shirt I had on underneath also. I rarely miss an opportunity to maintain a recently acquired tan!

I sat there for a good while, truly appreciating a bit of sunshine and thinking about a specific situation I am facing.

With my eyes closed, I was deep in thought when the sun went behind a cloud. At this point, I invariably grab my prescription sunglasses and ascertain how long the sun will be absent. If it’s a huge cloud, I normally go back inside and return to whatever I was doing before lunch.

On this particular occasion, the cloud was not too big and so I waited, sunglasses having been returned to the table.

Ever since I can remember (probably beginning in the famous, seemingly endless Summer of 1976) I have loved the feeling of the sun eventually emerging from behind a cloud and the sheer warmth landing perfectly on my closed eyelids.

It is almost magical and I love it every single time.

This time, when it came, I suddenly realised something that went deeper than my eyelids.

It went all the way to my heart.

Things can be extremely difficult when there are clouds in your life.

Sickness, relationships, business, work (or lack of). Anything that is causing delay and the ensuing frustration that follows can be tiring as well as a source of great stress and pain.

But when the sun finally comes back out, all the darkness can be left behind. Not always easily forgotten for most of us but bask in the sun long enough and it becomes easier to imagine a brighter future. Remembering how good it felt can help you to patiently wait for it to return yet again.

And it will. Always.

Come sun or cloud – and there will always be plenty of both – it is a wonder of creation. You can only do what you can do and then you simply have to wait.

(This is not my back garden!)

And the best bit of all is, you don’t have to go to Italy or anywhere else to have your eyelids licked by a ray of hope.

Simply look up, close your eyes and be encouraged when the warmth comes.





Is It Really Smart to Use a Smartphone?

Yesterday, a survey was published that chronicled the huge impact smartphones have made in our lives in the past decade.

I am well aware of course, that for every negative story about smartphones, there will probably be one positive story highlighting how a smartphone enabled someone to be rescued from a grizzly bear in Alaska (perhaps by using a translation app that caused the bear to think it was communicating with a hybrid-looking, fellow bear). I jest of course, but the truth is, the technology that feels like it is emerging every single day is truly astonishing at times.

As you will have guessed however, some of the facts I am about to present to you below will be more inclined to suggest we need less, not more of the influence that smartphones have brought into our world.

The headline and frankly, extremely shocking fact behind the proliferation of smartphone domination is this…

The average person in the UK spends more than a day a week online.

That’s right. One entire day out of seven. Or approximately 14.29% of a person’s time.

This represents a doubling of the time spent on the internet compared to ten years ago.

Here’s another shocking statistic…

One in five of all adults spend as much as forty hours a week on the internet.

Part of the reason behind this huge increase is due to the rise in use by those aged sixteen to twenty-four, who average 34.3 hours a week on the internet.

For the first time, women are spending more time online than men, fuelled by a rise in internet use by those aged 18 to 34 and the explosion in social media. They spend half an hour a week longer online than men of the same age.

The report, compiled by Ofcom, attributes a large part of the surge in time online to the rise of smartphones, which are now used by 78 per cent of the population compared with just 17 per cent in 2008, the year after the first iPhone was launched.

Here’s truly shocking (or not so shocking depending on your mobile tendencies) fact number three…

Britons are now so addicted to smartphones that they check them every twelve minutes.

The report, entitled A Decade of Digital Dependency, says 40 per cent of adults look at their mobile phone within five minutes of waking up, rising to 65 per cent of those aged under 35.

37 per cent of adults check their phones just before switching off the lights for bed, increasing to 60 per cent of under 35s.

Predictably, given the smartphone culture that has become firmly embedded in the lives of so many of us, the younger generation is the most addicted. Those aged fifteen to twenty-four spend on average, four hours a day on their smartphones, compared with 2 hours 49 minutes for all adults. The young also check their phones every 8.6 minutes, more frequently than any other age group.

While Ofcom highlights benefits such as keeping in touch with family, it cites stress and disruption to personal and family life.

“Some find themselves feeling overloaded when online or frustrated when they are not,” said Ian MacRae, director of market intelligence.

Fifteen per cent said smartphones made them feel they were always at work, 54 per cent admitted they interrupted face-to-face conversations with friends and family and 43 per cent admitted spending too much time online.

More than a third felt stressed and “cut off” without their phone and 29 per cent “lost without it” – while one in 10 said that giving it up was “liberating” or made them more productive.

But people treasure their smart phone more than any other device.

Almost half of adults said they would miss it more than TV (28 per cent) and a desktop or laptop computer (10 per cent) – a reversal of a decade ago, when 52 per cent said the TV was more important than the mobile phone (13 per cent). Among 16 to 24-year-olds, 72 per cent now say the smartphone is the device they would miss most.

Yet we spend less time making phone calls on it than ever before. Total outgoing calls on mobiles dropped by 2.5 billion minutes (1.7 per cent) in 2017 as people turned to WhatsApp and Messenger. Using it for phone calls is only considered important by 75 per cent of smartphone users compared with 92 per cent who say browsing the web is more important. It has, however, provoked a huge divide at mealtime, where using the phone was deemed inappropriate by 72 per cent of 18-34s as against 90 per cent of those aged over 55.

I took the above photo of a family who were supposedly eating together at an airport restaurant. What you can’t tell from it is how long this went on for. I was actually beginning to wonder after a while if they were travelling together or not!

So, is it really smart to use a smartphone or not? I guess the answer depends on how long you use it for.

This blog was inspired by and mostly copied from a Daily Telegraph article that I read on my laptop but could so easily have been on my smartphone. Oh the irony!

You can read the article in full here.



Timing is Everything

Timing is everything or so they say. I have heard this many times and so often I have thought to myself, “Yeah right!” as another opportunity slipped by without tangible explanation. And then today, after a day working in London, and meeting with new contacts, I arrived at Victoria station to a scene of Friday night commuting overload as almost all trains were delayed by “an incident”.

LondonBridgeChaosWhen you are faced with this scenario, you are offered a choice aren’t you? You can either become increasingly stressed out, especially if you have to be somewhere and now those plans are being jeopardised with every extra minute of delay. Or, you can accept that you are powerless to do anything about it and find something else to do.

Thankfully, I didn’t have any pressing engagement to get back to, so the choice was admittedly made a little easier and I found myself a seat in a pub inside the station and enjoyed a beer. Fortunately, I picked a spot where I could still see the train timetable board and could therefore glance up every now and then to see if the “Delayed” status had changed. What would I do I thought to myself, if I’m barely a few sips into this rather refreshing beer and the train is suddenly ready to depart? I’ve never been one to “down it in one” and so I decided I certainly wasn’t going to be rushing off, chasing after all the other Friday night ‘railway refugees’.

I was even more satisfied when I managed for the first time to actually use my ‘Personal Hotspot’ and do a bit of blogging and check my email. When I had finished writing as well as my beer, I glanced up at the timetable board and the train to Brighton was still “Delayed” but was now displaying “Platform 19”. It was time to go. I admit I did not casually walk but neither did I run for my life – something told me it would all be fine, despite the hordes of people all across the concourse.

I picked a spot on platform 19 just as the train was pulling in and to my wonder and pure delight, a set of doors stopped right in front of me, enabling me to get a seat and settle down for the journey home.


So what did I learn from this? Well, much as I may have often huffed and puffed and politely, even sometimes secretly, disagreed with the notion that timing is everything, this experience proved it can actually be the case. It may not feel like things are happening but often there is more good stuff going on behind your back than in front of your eyes. I could have got very stressed, spent the entire one hour of delay standing in the middle of the concourse, staring blankly at the timetable board and nothing would have changed. Except I would have been a lot thirstier!