Educating Rita, and me

Educating Rita, and me

We love theatre, movies and TV shows because they tell our stories.

When we see ourselves and our lives reflected back at us we know we’re not alone in our experiences, we feel connection with both the story and its writer, and life, for a while, seems to make more sense.

There’s a movie called “Educating Rita,” (written by one of my favourite writers, Willie Russell!), which has meant so much to me from the first time I saw it at the movies, with my mum.

It stars Michael Caine as a university professor and Julie Walters as Rita who comes from a working class family. In Rita’s family people don’t go to University. They leave school and get a job and that’s it, and if you are a woman, you get married, have children and resign yourself to your lot in life.

Rita is a hairdresser, married to a bloke who wants her to have a baby, but she doesn’t want to. She is hungry for education and feels there is so much more to life. Her studies begin to separate her from her family, because none of the others have trodden that path and they can’t seem to understand her need to fill that hunger, that curiosity.

In one tellingly emotional scene Rita is in the pub on a Saturday night with her family and they all begin to have a sing along in the pub. You can hear Rita’s voice narrating over the top of the scene, and she looks over and she sees her mum’s face. Her mum looks so miserable, so heart-breakingly sad.

In that moment Rita realises that her mum harbours all those same feelings for getting more out of life, and that she’s squashed those feelings down to fit in with the expectations of other people. Rita realises there are tears on her mum’s face, and says, ‘Why are you crying, Mother’, to which her mum replies “There must be better songs to sing than this.”

I can remember seeing that movie for the first time with my mum. I was 22 years old. I was also in the final stages of a four-year hairdressing apprenticeship and I too felt that ache for life to be something more, to sing a better song than this. I found myself sobbing there in the cinema, because right up there on that huge screen was my experience.

Then I turned to mum and she was crying too, because she also remembered her hopes and dreams that had been halted by life, and for a few moments we weren’t divided by generations, by history, a world war and the advent of feminism. We were simply women, equal in our hopes for a life well lived.

I recently saw a production of Educating Rita here in Adelaide and it blew me away. Stunningly, simply produced, directed and acted. It was everything I’d hoped it would be.

The great news is that this production is being given another outing due to the first run being totally sold out and I cannot recommend it enough. It has Lauren Renee and James McCluskey-Garcia in the roles of Rita and Frank, with direction by Nathan Quadrio of IpSkip Productions.

It runs next week, Wednesday 19 to Sunday 23 April at The Bakehouse Theatre and tickets are only $18.

If you love to see a great story well-told, go see it.  I promise you, it’s a wonderful night of theatre.



“Turn and face the strange”

We talk about the phases of life coming and going like the seasons, but that’s not really true, is it?

We know that as autumn ends and winter begins that if we keep going and don’t get careless and die, then sure as the sun rises we will see spring, summer and then another autumn. But life’s phases don’t ever come again. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.

I think that is what makes them so scary; we get used to the known and we fear the new because it is unknown, and no matter how hard we wish it, the past will never return. We can create a present and future that is just as good or even better, but we can never relive the past, except in memory.

The week I originally wrote this post my son, our youngest, left home to make his own way in the world, and at the same time we sold the home in which he grew up. This house had one job… and it performed it beautifully.

In my life I leapt from parental home to flat share to reckless first marriage, the only positive result of which was said young man. After that came emigration, divorce and new marriage complete with grown up stepsons, and all the time raising son and looking after elderly Dad.

Now, Dad has passed and son is out on his own, and without the blessed yoke of our caregiving duties, my husband and I are slightly nonplussed as to exactly who we are and what we want. We’re a pair of senior delinquents blinking in the freedom of the sunshine like those chimps released from the science labs.

Looks like we’ll have to go find ourselves, hon.

The Martian Theory

The Martian Theory

I’ve never felt like I totally belonged here on earth.

I’ve always been slightly bemused, and felt alien towards most of life’s game rules. As a result I’m often puzzled, frequently amused and mostly lost (but not always in a bad way).

I call the way I brought my son up ‘The Martian Theory’. It was the best way I knew to explain to him about how life works here. I didn’t want to go the way of my parents and their hardline catholicism. Not that I’m criticising, they did the best they could and imagination, wine and a few exorcisms dealt with my own personal residue of that time of my life. For my son, though, I treated him as a visitor plopped on to the earth and it was my job to teach him the rules of the game here on this beautiful planet.

In essence, I steered away from things being labelled ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and stuck more to appropriateness and resourcefulness. For instance, it’s better for everyone if we cooperate, have compassion and don’t be dicks to each other. It seemed to work for him, he’s turned out to be a nice person all round.

We’re all metaphorical Martians. We’re spirits conveyed by meatsuits, travelling through space and time on a beautiful planet that’s hurtling at 1040 mile per hour.

Life is fragile. Let’s not be dicks.

A Letter I Wish I Could Deliver

A Letter I Wish I Could Deliver

Dear 16 year old me,

I would have thought that by the time I was 55 that I would have it all sussed by now, but it seems not to be the case. I still don’t really have a clue what I’m doing, so I’m writing to you to say a few things about stuff I’ve picked up along the way, that I’m still learning, and what I wished I’d known waaay back there in 1977.

  1. You are a survivor. Good on you for your strength and your silliness.
  2. You are a beautiful creative soul; a trusting pure soul who looks only for the best in others and delights when she finds it. You are a prize and those around you should be worthy of that. Be careful because there will be some who are not. They will take your trust and abuse it. Do not hesitate to say goodbye to these people. They do not understand your essence. Wish them well and then turn and continue on your own path.
  3. You are strong. You have come through so much and you will go through so much, and yet despite it all you will always prevail.
  4. Did I say that you are beautiful? Just saying it again for good measure. Not enough people have told you this. In fact the person you needed to hear it from the most said quite opposite, horrible things. She was scared and angry and she took it out on you. What she did was wrong and she betrayed her position every time she abused it. So, you must learn to know this truth, and you must breathe it in and keep that thought, glowing rose pink enveloping your heart.
  5. You don’t have to be a good girl all the time. Just because up til now not being compliant has meant nasty repercussions in the form of emotional and physical abuse it won’t always be like this. Protect your essence and don’t let it be wiped away. Some of your sweetest memories will be from the times you didn’t do what you were told – look forward to them!
  6. You always have choices – even if at times it doesn’t seem like you do. This is where I wish I could reach back in time to take you, my dearest 16 year old bewildered, displaced and sad self, and show you that you do have options and choices, and tell you that you do not have to believe or comply with all that you are told.
  7. You have a good heart and a strong moral compass. Trust it more, listen to it more and trust yourself.
  8. Give yourself a break. You have been through more in your 16 years than many people have in a lifetime. Don’t feel sad at your feelings of separation from others who have not experienced all those things. Instead accept it. Your wisdom and maturity have been accelerated by all those events and those who have been through the same as you will recognise their fellow traveler and you will keep a sweet and rarefied company with them.
  9. You have insight. You realised early on that no matter what the cataclysm or disaster, that life goes on and the world keeps turning. There is no shame in moving on from a dark situation that could not be mended – or even in choosing not to mend a bad situation – remember that thing about choices? As much as you may want to you cannot step off the world. However you can deal with it the best way you know how, and that is usually to dance, to sing and to laugh and laugh and laugh.
  10. Never listen to people – often men – who will tell you that it is unladylike to swear. Fuck them! Remember that guy one night who, because you used your sharp wit in conversation, warned you that your “mouth would get you into trouble one day”? Well ignore him and his ilk. Never dim your light in any respect just to accommodate dull-witted trolls. They do not understand the beauty of banter, the gloriousness of the craic, the exquisiteness of the well placed curse or the basic principle of equal human rights. The men in your life, if they love you, will not censure you for swearing or tell you to be silent because you are singing or laughing. If anyone in your life does this, tell them to fuck off!

You are good, you are beautiful, you are strong and you are true.

With love,

From me (you) xxxx

The Delicious Dram


When it comes to whisky-making, the copper stills used to distill the spirit are often very very old, sometimes hundreds of years old.

Over time the stills get a bit bashed and each develops its unique pattern of bumps and dents. The wild thing is, this affects the taste of the whisky that particular still produces. Some whisky makers now depend on that unique taste as a mark of their brand and would never change the still, no matter how old or battered, as that would alter the taste.

Similarly, as human beings, if our efforts out in the world aren’t bringing the results we’re seeking, then it might be a useful time to regard our own ‘bumps and dents’.

Whatever is happening in our world is often a reflection of what’s going on inside us. The natural human reaction when the desired results aren’t happening is to push through, keep going. We believe more and more action needs to be taken.

This belief is a fallacy.

Action is actually the end point in the sequence, not the start point, not the catalyst.  A much more  useful strategy when, despite all good plans and action, progress is still not being made, is to delve inside and find out what’s going on in relation to that particular circumstance.

Our actions come from our thoughts; our thoughts come from our beliefs, and our beliefs come from the myriad experiences and teachings we’ve received throughout our lives – especially in childhood – that have combined to form our particular ‘map’ of the world. Tweak one thing and the belief changes, change the belief it changes the thoughts, change the thoughts it changes the action and change the action you change the results.

That tweak changes the taste of our particular whisky, and the more we work in a positive fashion on whom and what we want to become, the sweeter, more pungent and delicious the dram we produce.




I’m in that space right now where I can’t do anything!

I’m about to launch two events in the coming week and pilot an awesome program the following week and I’m stuck because I need to confirm dates and venues and make sure that they fit in with other dates for other projects that are, as yet, unconfirmed. And it’s the weekend, and no one confirms anything on the weekend (which is as it should be).

As an action oriented person, this stuckness is not conducive to my well- being. I’d rather be like the mama duck who moves to get her ducks in a row rather than waiting for them to assemble and pronounce themselves ready.

However I need to learn the lesson –I need to learn to relax when there is no other option but to do so and that the things that need to unfold will do so in their own time (with a bit of a push from me smiley). And I suspect that its not just me who needs to take a breath and a step back. We put so much cache on ‘making things happen’ that we often forget to read the energies around us and maximise their usefulness – the energies of society, our culture, the times, of the people who surround us and of the ether where a trained instinct can overcome the mental flurry to really read what’s going on.

So, that’s a long-winded way of saying have a great Sunday, and have a great following week where the wind will be at your back and you’ll be astounded at the all-encompassing un-stuck-ness of everything.


Happy Australia Day!


Happy Australia Day! It’s a day that gives pause for thought both for those people who are Australian by birth and those who are Australian by choice.

Coming from Scotland I’ve often been asked whether I was torn between the country of my birth and the country I choose to live in, but I don’t actually see a dilemma. Just as a person grows up and gets married and goes to live with their new partner and subsequent family I see Scotland as the place where I grew and formed and Australia as the opportunity for my next adventures in life. No place can take the place in my history or my heart of Scotland, and it may even have a place in my future. In the meantime I live in a country I love so much that I chose to become a citizen on the very day I became eligible to do so.

There is a lot of talk about the political and social issues du jour here in Australia, but for a moment I’ll give you a snapshot of my little corner; I live in a nice suburb in a slightly daggy but loveable house that contains a happy family and three dogs. In our corner of the street our newest neighbour moved in ten years ago, so we’ve seen each other’s families grow up and we all know each other and know we can chap on anyone’s door for help or coffee (though we rarely do – should do the coffee more). We can chat over the back fence – when we got  new fencing done I had to put an old upturned plant tub to be able to see over for the chats. And in a rare event a house around the corner was up for sale just before Christmas and was bought by our neighbour’s daughter and her family, so the suburban idyll continues.

The neighbours are mostly Italian migrants or the sons and daughters of Italian migrants. Exceptions are us and Tony and Robyn across the back who are of UK extraction. The commonality is that no matter whether our accents hail from Piedmont to Sicily, from Glasgow to London, or from Port Hedland to Geelong and anywhere in between, we are all Australian – and that’s the key – the diversity.

This song says it all:

Happy Australia Day!

The Effort of Doing Nothing

Its good to have a place for some mental downtime
The Thinking Chair

My very writing of this blog post is one big ol’ piece of irony.

I’m actually contravening what I’m writing about, in writing about it! Let me explain.

The topic of this post is giving yourself permission to do nothing. Today is Sunday, it’s a sunny afternoon after a period of gloomy rainy wintry weather.

I’ve been working hard in the past few weeks with plenty on my mind to mull over. Today is an ideal opportunity to sit down and look at the blue sky, feel the (relative) warmth of the sun on my skin and just take the time to take a breath.

I know intellectually that this will be very beneficial for me; it will give me some headspace and recuperation, it will help me be calm and it will take me back into the now.

However, inside, there’s a slight feeling of panic at the thought of not doing anything, not achieving anything, not being productive. So instead of using this time wisely I’ve written this blog, attended to some correspondence and booked flights and accommodation for a trip. That’s all well and good but the truth is that  it could all be done tomorrow without suffering any setback.

I’ve become so accustomed to being busy that I’m losing sight of why I’m being busy. Busy-ness for its own sake is ridiculous – it’s a pup chasing its tail, its treading water – plenty of action but not much progress in the long run.

Mental downtime is essential for the proper functioning of our minds in the same way that rest helps the physical body recover. It’s not rocket science but, boy,  I do need to do a facepalm now and again just so’s I follow my own advice.

The sun is shining, the breeze is blowing and my thinking chair awaits.

Checking out for now to take my own advice.

Have a great week!

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The Servant’s Heart

Good god! I haven’t written on here since last September! Apologies for my absence (if I’ve been missed). Its been a life changing set of months which have blurred into a flurry of work, study, coaching and business building.
I’ve been keen to stick to the Brad Sugars quote that we should ‘learn before we earn.’ I find that’s good and it sits well with my values, so my head’s been in the books and I’ve been doing much pro bono work, as well as a little paid work, to upskill as much as possible. It’s amazing how much I’ve learned, too. I only realised myself when I acted as a listener to someone who is six months behind me in the coaching journey and I was able to add such value for them.
One thing I have learned, this stuff that I learn, and that I now coach and teach, has allowed clients to make such huge changes in their lives that it is very humbling. And it’s only when I’ve been able to feel that humility that I understood totally what my school means about approaching everything with a servant’s heart.
It’s possible that this kind of skill could be seen by some as a kind of power that reflects more on their own abilities, and in the wrong hands it could go to the head.
So, servant’s heart it is, and in that way, standing not in front, nor behind, but beside the client, I can share in both the struggle to change and transform, as well as the joy of the victory when they succeed.