Category Archives: Personal

#4 Calon lân

My all-time favourite hymn, in any language is Calon lân. I’d like to think that my attitude to life is summed up quite nicely in the first verse:

Nid wy’n gofyn bywyd moethus,
Aur y byd na’i berlau mân:
Gofyn wyf am galon hapus,
Calon onest, calon lân.

Here’s a literal translation into English:

I don’t ask for a luxurious life,
the world’s gold or its fine pearls,
I ask for a happy heart,
an honest heart, a pure heart.

Or, as I’ve only just found, a nice rhyming English version:

I’d not ask a life that’s easy,
Gold and pearls so little mean,
Rather seek a heart that’s joyful,
Heart that’s honest, heart that’s clean.

Which is also quite lovely.

To aim for material goals, money or fame your whole life seems to be missing the point of life itself somewhat. To aim to develop a pure, honest, happy heart and soul is a much worthier target. The closer you get, the more things you find beautiful anyway. It’s perfectly unattainable, of course, but that’s the key. You always get to aim higher than where you are now.

I think that’s my Magnum Opus (which is Latin for ‘Big Ice Cream’, presumably) – to make myself the best Me I can be.

Stay Beautiful,

Al

#3 Circle of Life

This one was penned on the list for much later, but I heard it on the radio this morning just at the end of an interview with Fabrica Muamba. So it seemed right to include it this week.

This quote is pretty much the entire song. It’s from the Lion King, which is freaking awesome (and 20 years old next year. I know). It makes me think every time I hear it.

From the day we arrive on the planet
And blinking, step into the sun
There’s more to be seen than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done

Some say eat or be eaten
Some say live and let live
But all are agreed as they join the stampede
You should never take more than you give

In the circle of life
It’s the wheel of fortune
It’s the leap of faith
It’s the band of hope
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the circle, the circle of life

Some of us fall by the wayside
And some of us soar to the stars
And some of us sail through our troubles
And some have to live with the scars

There’s far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found
But the sun rolling high through the sapphire sky
Keeps great and small on the endless round

We’re all just tiny pieces of a giant puzzle, trying to find out where we fit. Nobody ever gets to see the big picture until it’s close to the end. Whatever your role, try to never take more than you give.

Stay beautiful,

Al

28 Weeks Later

No, not zombies.

My wife is now 28 weeks pregnant. Or possibly 26 weeks pregnant, due to women having weeks 1 & 2 of pregnancy before conceiving (I know).

We’ve had the first trimester (the only time you use that word is when talking about pregnancy) during which there was constant nausea but, surprisingly, not much actual vomit. The second trimester, which involved a lot more energy, but the occasional sudden vomit. We have now entered the third trimester which, I’m guessing, is when the belly gets really big and you just want the baby out. Although not until an appropriate amount of time has passed for the baby to appear at a ‘normal’ juncture.

We have read books (lots of good ones, but don’t read too much about the birth itself, or look at pictures, if you’re eating) so we know vaguely what to expect. However, the one thing that has struck me is that pregnancy (and, presumably, child-rearing too for that matter) is completely different for almost everyone. And yet identical in many ways.

Another thing that has become apparent is all other parents’ badly-hidden, sadistic glee at seeing someone else about to join their ‘club’. Usually because they want others to experience the same trauma they have gone through. Barely has a discussion on children passed without some negative story coming up of bad behaviour, over-tiredness or lack of time/money without the cursory ‘You’ve got all this to come’ comment rearing its head, along with a knowing grin. But not so often with the positive, wonderful experiences of having children. Which, presumably, do turn up every now and again, otherwise WHY DID YOU HAVE MORE THAN ONE?!

So, we have got the pram (looks like Batman’s pram, according to my wife), ordered the nursery furniture, not decided on names (although ‘Chuck’ has, apparently, been vetoed), and started bulk buying baby wipes. Seriously, come February, I’m going to be a baby wipe-dispensing machine!

The next 12 weeks are going to fly by, aren’t they?

I can’t wait.

Then there were three…

Yes. 8 weeks ago, we read the magic words ‘Pregnant’ on the little magic stick that can tell these things. It was, according to the intellectually stimulating marketing campaign, ‘The most sophisticated thing you’ll ever pee on…’. Nice. (Although they are assuming there that you haven’t peed on Stephen Fry. Not that I have, you understand. I just think that there are probably more sophisticated things out there on which one may urinate. Should one wish to, that is.). Further magic sticks told us the same thing. So, instead of believing them, and as is convention, we went to the doctor. His medically-trained opinion was that, as the magic stick had told us so, my wife had to be pregnant.

Well done Medical School.

So, now our lives have been inexplicable changed. There is a whole lot more sick, tiredness and new clothes in the house. And the baby isn’t due until February.

I’d say that, at the moment, I’m 90% excited, 10% terrified. But 100% over the moon.

I don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl. My theory is that, if it’s a boy, it’ll want to play rugby (hey, it’ll be my son, of course it’ll like rugby!), so that’ll be good. If it’s a girl, she’ll like playing rugby until social convention tells her that she should be more interested in mascara and ponies, and by then it’ll be too late, she’ll be her own person and want to play rugby anyway. And the pool from which they pick international rugby players is much smaller for women, so I’m more likely to have a Welsh cap in the family! As it’s due to arrive just before Wales play Italy in next year’s Six Nations, it obviously wants to make sure the first match it sees is a Welsh win!

(Maybe we should use the first try-scorer as an idea for a name…actually, maybe not, Castrogiovanni Wynne might take a while for it to learn.)

So, I’m going to be a Dad. And my wonderful wife is going to make an amazing Mum. And a whole new adventure is unfolding before us…

30 Things I’ve learnt – Part XXX

I’ve only gone and done it! A blog a day for thirty days in a row! I rule! (Humorous aside – the WordPress app on my phone doesn’t recognise the word ‘blog’! Ha!)

So, in keeping with the time-honoured tradition of ‘saving the best until last’, that is what I’ve tried to do. Today’s is a motto, if you like. One by which I try to live my life. It’s simple, straightforward, and easy to remember:

Enjoy the journey

When all else fails, remember that you should be having fun.

As nice as having goals is, if you’re only ever happy when you achieve a goal, you’re never going to be truly happy. There will always be bigger goals, more ambitious dreams.

Konstantinos Kavafis wrote a poem (which, to be fair, probably sounds better in its native Greek as it’s not the most catchy in English) about Ulysses’ return to Ithaca, his Odyssey. Telling him to remember his goal, but to realise that the journey he takes to reach it will teach him so much, and could perhaps even reward him more than the final destination will.

Here are a couple of examples:

Don’t lose sight of Ithaca,
for that’s your destination.
But take your time;
better that the journey lasts many a year
and that your boat only drops anchor on the island
when you have grown rich
with what you learned on the way.

If in the end you think that Ithaca is poor,
don’t think that she has cheated you.
Because you have grown wise and lived an intense life,
and that’s the meaning of Ithaca.

This is true for actual journeys as well as the metaphorical journey of life. If you achieve your life’s ambition at the age of 50, but have not enjoyed the journey you have taken to get there, was it truly worth it? Or, to look at it another way, should you never attain your life’s goal, but have enjoyed every minute of trying to achieve it, does that make the time spent a failure?

As for turning thirty? Well, tonight it will be like getting off the train at Cardiff Central with a free ticket to anywhere I like. I can choose in which direction I go, but I can’t guarantee how the journey will pan out. All I can do, is ensure I enjoy it.

And boy, do I intend to.

30 Things I’ve learnt – Part XXIX

I don’t like to stereotype the sexes. There are some similarities between women and between men, obviously. There are also similarities between men and women. However, one ‘fact’ generally gets bandied about and I don’t know from where it came. So I’m going to debunk the myth:

Men do not think about sex every 6 seconds

We can’t possibly. How could we possibly think about it every 6 seconds, while also fitting in thoughts about sport, sandwiches, Star Wars, cars, beer and snacks, amongst other things? It just isn’t possible. We’re not as complicated as that.

For example, right now I’m thinking:

‘Hmm, writing my blog. That’s short for weblog isn’t it. I wonder if that’s short for anything else. Danny DeVito, he’s also short. Will he ever reach the heady heights of Twins again? Is he jealous of Arnie and his political ‘career’? Does Short Man Aggression actually exist, or are short men just really annoyed that people automatically assume they do have it? Ha! I remember when that midget shouted ‘Cunt!’ At me in the street. Brilliant. He definitely had it. I should’ve picked him up and given him a hug. Shown him some love. Courtney Love, she’s a bit crazy, isn’t she? Poor thing. Must’ve been a massive headfuck when Kurt killed himself. Does the baby on the Nevermind album tells people that’s who he is? I wonder why they chose Lithium as a title for a song. Not Argon or Beryllium. Menstrual Cycles should appear on the Periodic Table. Who were the first people to use tables to eat food off? And when did cutlery come into fashion? Who decides on the number of prongs on a fork, there are usually four, aren’t there? Maybe there’s some Satanic connotation in three prongs. Wouldn’t want to have to summon the Devil every time I eat. Bet he’d nick all the ketchup. I don’t think I could name all of Heinz’s 57 varieties. Unless I include ‘salt-free’ or ‘light’ versions of everything. Even then I’d struggle. Mmmmm, beans. If it weren’t so late, I could eat some right now. Odd term, Baked beans. They must bake them first, before sticking them in the tomato sauce. I wonder if celebrity chefs have made fancy beans on toast, what’d be in that? Heston Blumenthal probably uses liquid nitrogen to cryogenically ‘bake’ the beans somehow. Bet Nigella doesn’t. Ooh, Nigella…’

There we go. First thought about sex. Far longer than 6 seconds in.

Proof.

30 Things I’ve learnt – Part XXVIII

Are you ready for a profound statement? The answer to getting whatever it is you want?

You can have/be almost anything you want, if you’re prepared to sacrifice whatever it takes to achieve it.

This, again, is probably obvious.

There are, of course, some caveats. Pretty much the same ones the Genie tells Aladdin (Disney again!):

  • You can’t make anyone fall in love with you.
  • You can’t bring anyone back from the dead.
  • You can’t wish for more wishes.

I should explain. If you put enough, maybe all, of your concentration and energy into achieving something, you can make it happen.

You want a visible six-pack? You know exactly what you have to do. Eat clean, do the right exercises, get your body fat down to single digits and there you go.

You want to be a professional athlete? Put the hours in, study the game, practise every waking hour until your muscle memory knows exactly what to do with the ball/club/bat in any given situation, it’s yours (You may wish to have started this at a relatively young age).

You want to be a millionaire? Go ahead. Put business before anything else, learn from other millionaires, never give up in spite of hundreds of setbacks and doubters, you’ll get there.

Almost anything is possible. Except making someone love you. Except bringing people back from the dead. Most importantly, except having any other wishes. You see, to excel, truly excel, in any one area, you need to be willing to make sacrifices in almost every other part of your life.

That’s why most people don’t achieve these things. Most people want balance in their lives. You balance trying to get the perfect body with your love of beer, or ice cream, or pasta. You balance your passion to compete with your need for a loving family. You balance the amount of money you can make with having some sort of enjoyable life in which you can spend your money.

In short, if you really want something, you can get it. Just be sure that you’d be happy losing whatever it takes to get there.