I was talking to my mother on the phone this morning.
She’s just returned from a two night stay in hospital after collapsing in town.
Fortunately, after undergoing a barrage of tests, there doesn’t seem to be any serious fundamental problem.
But she was talking about the hospital staff and how she couldn’t fault them and what long shifts they have and this has prompted me to write this post.
Because there’s something I can never understand about healthcare.
I think we can all agree that healthcare is one of the most important services available, if not the most important.
If you can think of a more important service, let me know.
So explain to me why, when it’s vital for workers in this field to be at their sharpest, as they are often making life or death decisions, and at their physical best in order to guarantee precision in surgery for example, do doctors and nurses often work ten hour shifts?
Your garagist doesn’t work a ten hour shift, so does that mean that repairing cars is more taxing than repairing humans?
In no other profession are there such long shifts, and yet in none of these professions is it so important not to make a mistake.
This is something I’ve never understood.
It’s an indication of the absurdity and mixed-up values of our modern world.
It seems to me that doctors’ and nurses’ hours ought to be shorter than other people’s in order to ensure that they can provide the best service possible, not longer than for anyone else.
After all, if you have to go to hospital, wouldn’t you like to know that the people overseeing your health are properly rested and in a fit mental and physical state to look after you properly?
I know I would.
But then, as Bob Dylan put it, “People are crazy and times are strange.”
Have you ever felt under-dressed next to someone in a suit, particularly if it’s a good one?
Well, there are a couple of ways of dealing with this.
You can quote Eleanor Roosevelt to yourself:
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Good point, but not always easy to apply.
The other way is a little more subtle but I find it helpful.
After all, how many people choose to wear a suit?
So at the end of the day, it’s just another UNIFORM that people have to wear.
It’s really no different from wearing a uniform for serving in a café, or dungarees for a garagist.
It may be made of cashmere, and hand-tailored at the fanciest shop in London, but ultimately it’s just a uniform.
So if you are wearing what you want, you’re actually much more fortunate than the guy wearing the suit.
You have the enormous power of freedom of choice.
He doesn’t. He has to keep up appearances.
So the next time you’re queuing up for coffee or standing in line at the bank and you feel someone looking down at you because he’s wearing a suit and you’re not, tell yourself that he’s just wearing a uniform.
If you are not a man and left-handed, then this post may have only limited interest for you.
But by all means, read on….
* * * * *
It sometimes takes a very long time for the penny to drop.
Do you know the sci-fi film ‘Gattaca?’
Well, you may remember the scene at the end where it transpires that the doctor Lamar has known all along that Vincent is not what he pretends to be.
And the reason:
“For future reference, right-handed men don’t hold it with their left. Just one of those things.”
Conversely, left-handed men don’t hold it with their right.
And I didn’t.
Until a couple of weeks ago.
* * * * *
If you are right-handed then you have no idea of the contortions we Southpaws make to fit into your regimented world.
Statistically, we are about 10% of the population.
It’s a bit like being a Mac in a world of PCs (just kidding!)
When my mother was a child, the teachers tried to force her to write with her right hand. She couldn’t.
Only when my grand-mother went down to the school and told them to stop messing with her daughter was the situation resolved.
But then we’ve always had a bad name.
The word ‘sinister’ comes from the Latin ‘sinistra’ meaning left.
An accident in French is called a “sinistre.”
I dare say many of us were burn as witches and warlocks in league with the devil during the middle ages.
And there are situations where a left-hander could be a bit of a liability.
Going back to the Romans, the success of the legion phalanx was dependent upon each man’s sword arm protecting the left of the soldier next to him. Imagine the chaos if you had left-handed soldiers in there as well.
* * * * *
Some adaptations are obvious, of course.
Like when you sit down at a computer and the mouse is on the right.
Or pick up a pair of scissors and the handle cuts into your fingers because it isn’t made for you.
Or a measuring beaker where you can’t see the measuring guide.
Or a guitar, piano, drumset and all those other things that simply aren’t made for US.
As a leftie, you get really good at lateralization, that’s for sure.
But the weirdest thing is that you get so used to adapting that if you buy something made specifically for a left-hander, you often can’t get it to work.
When I bought a fountain pen recently, I tried both right- and left-handed pens, but in the end I was happier and wrote better with the pen for righties.
Sometimes you can’t get a pair of left-handed scissors to cut because you’ve got so used to putting the pressure of the blades in the other direction with right-handed ones.
And controlling a computer mouse on the left takes an enormous amount of concentration to get anything done, the hand is so untrained for that sort of movement.
So we get very good at pretending to be right-handed.
So much so that we sometimes miss the obvious.
Which brings me back to the pants.
For some reason, the penny never dropped that pants are made for right-handed people too.
For me, they were just pants.
It took me 60 years to wake up to the fact that even pants make our lives more complicated.
Obviously, since the opening is on the right, it’s much easier to grab it with your right hand.
As a left-hander, you have to reach over the opening, back inside to the left, grab it and then push it out to the right.
It’s a movement like the mark of Zorro, but less swash-buckling.
Then as you pee, the pants are continually trying to close on you to the left and underside which has a tendency to compress the urethra and inhibit the flow.
So a couple of weeks ago, I started holding it with my right hand.
And what do you know?
Oh, joy! Oh, bliss!
It really is much simpler.
I suppose you can’t really have left-handed pants because the trouser zip is made for right-handers as well.
I did discover a site on the web where they sell pants for left-handers with a horizontal opening, but how successful these are, I don’t know.
But it does underline the degree to which we’ve unconsciously adapted to the right hand world.
Some adaptations I’ve taken on spontaneously.
Our hands are a bit like our eyes in that one tends to take care of precision work while the other is for general use.
I try to swap things around.
Bilateral movement is good for you. And it gets your brain to develop new pathways.
For example, turning a key in the lock is something that I would normally do with my left hand, but I’ve also trained myself to do it with my right, because locks too can end up in positions where only a rightie can open them.
Same with pouring a bottle of wine.
And there are events that push you to make an extra effort too.
I broke a bone in my left hand once and I was so appalled at how difficult it was for me to wipe my ass with my right hand after going to the toilet that I swore I’d never go through that again. So I practised until I reached a reasonable degree of dexterity with the right too.
These days the politically correct talk about discrimination against minorities all the time.
But I wonder how many people stop to consider the great minority of left-handed people and the extent to which we are discriminated against in our totalitarian right-handed society?
The idea that taking pictures of the brain’s activity might actually help us to understand why people behave as they do and be an invaluable aid in deciding on the best psychiatric treatment…… Who knew?
Why does it take supposedly learned and experienced scientists so long to reach the obvious conclusion – one that as Daniel Amen points out in his passionate talk, any reasonably aware 9 year old would be capable of reaching?
As I mentioned before, the channel is really targeted at entrepreneurs and business activities, but many of the pieces of advice are relevant to any sphere of activity.
Marie is quite a character, has a big following with her YouTube channel and is fun to watch.
A little personal story here.
Almost exactly a year ago, I brought out my second full album of original music, MY TITANIC.
Now bringing out the first album, THE LESS YOU DO, in 2010, had been somewhat of an uncomfortable experience. I’d gone into the studio with eight musicians and an arranger and it had all got rather complicated.
So for the second album, I wanted to go a different direction and I was thinking about trying to record some tracks on my own, but I didn’t feel ready.
I was wondering what to do when I discovered a remarkable and now unfortunately defunct site called CrowdAudio which allowed artists to run mixing competitions.
As it happened, I’d recorded a ballad with just a piano-voice arrangement a fews days previously, so I decided to put it in and see what happened.
147 mixes and much listening later, I’d discovered the engineer with whom I went on to record the whole album. 3ee happens to live in Romania.
Now I wasn’t at all sure about recording the album on my own at home. But I liked the initial mix and I thought I could maybe try to record a few more songs before getting stuck and hiring session musicians in to a studio. Although I worried that the song arrangements would be too thin and the instrumental playing too weak, I persuaded myself to give it a shot.
So I started recording the album and sending the results off to Romania.
I decided to get each song mixed and mastered before moving on to the next.
Gradually, the number of completed songs built up.
And finally, I reached a tipping point where I said to myself, “What the hell, let’s do the whole thing like this.”
And the interesting thing was that the experience of recording at home generated new songs as I went along, songs that perhaps I would not have written otherwise.
In the end, many of the songs that I had initially wanted to record didn’t get on the album because I was enjoying the process of writing songs from scratch and recording them, all within the space of a few days. Some of them really sped through the “factory.”
Did I feel ready to record the whole album by myself before starting?
Is the result perfect?
Could the arrangements be better?
But it doesn’t stop me from being proud of the album and grateful for the experience.
And as Marie points out in her video, there’s really only one crime.
Everybody has to begin somewhere. Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody has to change things around.
Personally, I’d like to see more places that are wi-fi, laptop and mobile phone free.
It really is time that people reclaimed their lives and started returning to the real world.
The mobile phone is a tool over which many people have no control whatsoever.
If you do not master a tool, then you become its slave.
Other tools that people are often enslaved to are money and TV.
Same thing applies.
Ask yourself honestly:
Do I have control over my mobile phone/money/TV or does it have control over me?
And if your answer is that you don’t have control over these things:
TV and mobile phone:
Discover the off button and practise using it.
Start real conversations with real people in front of you.
Do not reply to the phone when you are already in a conversation with a real person.
Try looking at the world around you. It’s full of beauty.
Try being thankful for the money that you already have.
Try sitting down and working out how much money you really need.
Try evaluating the real cost of obtaining the money you earn.
Try giving some away and see how it feels.
Wikipedia définition: “Paraphernalia most commonly refers to a group of apparatus, equipment, or furnishing used for a particular activity.”
When I was a kid, I had a bike.
Whenever I wanted, I leapt on my bike and went for a ride.
It was that simple.
Now it seems you can’t go for a ride unless you’ve got the right shoes and togs, preferably smeared with advertising so you look like you’re on a pro team.
And don’t forget the gel-padded gloves, the water bottle, the pump, the tinted protective glasses and the indispensable crash helmet.
Bicycle clips on your ordinary trousers are passé.
You need a special low friction, ultra high-speed, no wind-resistant pair of tights.
Whatever happened to simple?
Whatever happened to inexpensive?
Let’s take another example: fitness.
All the advertising suggests that you need an expensive gym membership to stay fit or at least have a few costly machines at home.
Even if you have no exercise ideas of your own, the internet abounds in excellent exercise suggestions that require nothing more than willpower and a functional body to perform without any equipment whatsoever (see list at end of post).
So why are we constantly cluttering up our lives with all this unnecessary equipment and expense?
Perhaps we’re trying to convince ourselves that if we don’t have the equipment we can’t do the activity.
Perhaps we’re afraid that if there is no one to look at us, then we won’t exercise.
Ultimately, though, it’s between you and you.
The rest is just distraction.
All that equipment, all that clutter – it’s a hindrance rather than a help.
Keep it simple.
Do what you can.
Go slowly – you’ll quickly become disgusted if you overdo it.
Here are a few YouTube exercise channels that I particularly like:
Although this company makes fitness equipment, the workouts without any equipment at all are very interesting. The link I’ve given will take you to a series of standing abdo exercises that I’ve tried out myself, but the are plenty more videos like that. It’s a little macho with the man giving the orders and the girls doing all the work, but my goodness those girls are beautiful!
These guys are into parkour but their exercise suggestions without equipment are really interesting and useful for anybody.
Targeted at people over fifty, the lady presenter may be a little less flamboyant but her suggestions are good.
K’s Perfect Fitness
The girl has the obligatory stunning looks of a standard get fit channel, but she actually has some good exercise tips without equipment as well as with. The poor sound is a minor irritation (microphone on camera so no presence).
Very important – don’t get depressed if you don’t look like the presenters in these videos!