I was recently asked to write about “Loneliness”, by my friend Rich BJ., (that’s actually his real name; sucks doesn’t it?).  According to BJ, loneliness is a cutting-edge issue of our time and one, I have to say, I often help clients resolve.  So, I’ve written a few pointers on the dos and don’ts of loneliness.  But before we jump-in with a shit-storm of bad solutions, like a Trump supporter in a gay orgy; let’s first try to clarify what we mean by “loneliness”.  I’m sure that the patronising tone of this article, will probably lead you to consider that I also may have suffered the isolation of the human condition, and remarkably, come out the other side with a wisdom borne of experience.  Well, not true!  I’ve always been incredibly popular and had loads of friends.  Now, back to you.

Often, clients say to me;  “I’m just not like other people” and this may be true.  Perhaps, you’ve been shut out of spaceship and your “people” legged-it at warp-speed to another Galaxy, leaving you behind in the woods.  Many of us have been subjected to similar types of social exclusion, often verging on bullying.  But worry not, you’re amongst friends here, and help is at hand.  There are some popular misconceptions on this topic I think we need to clear up first.  No matter how “alien” you feel, do not hide in a dark garden shed or entice a ten year old boy into that shed, by playing “catch my balls” with him, at night.  Do not move into his bedroom, with or without, asking his parents’; nor hide there as a “special secret” between you two.  Neither, contrary to popular belief, can I recommend you engage in cosplay, or cross-dressing with his pre-schooler sister.  If the police are chasing you, do not go on-the-run with a group of ten year old boys, strangely dedicated to you.  Trust me on this, you can save everyone a lot of hassle by just handing yourself in for medical research.  The probes they’ll stick in you are a kindness, compared to the probing on a sex offenders wing, in a high security prison.

Aliens who hid in children’s bedrooms

Perhaps you just feel inherently “different”, to other people.  Maybe you’re a bit of an “outsider” at home, or you just don’t want to play-by-the-rules of conventional society? For those of you who really can’t fit-in, my suggestion is to turn to the healing power of music.  Try dressing from head-to-toe in black, perhaps don some daytime make-up which makes you look slightly vampirescque and look for musicians wearing the same clothes.  Buy their music, whatever it is, then buy all their merchandise, (even wear the t-shirt) and travel as often and as far, as you can, spending all of your money on their concerts.  For a mere $100, you can find yourself surrounded by tens of thousands of other outcasts; all wearing the exact same black clothes and all gathered together (on a weekend night), voicing their refusal to partake in a system they neither understand, nor agree with.  You’ll find things in common, as you stand patiently in line, waiting to show your ticket, or try to locate your numbered seat, amongst the thousand of identical rows.  Trust me, the unique feelings of isolation and disaffection, will be amplified as you all rhythmically raise a fist in time to the music and join in the mass sing-along.  You may have just found your tribe.   Who knew there were so many people, like you, who work in admin during the week.

Screenshot 2019-09-14 at 17.27.03
Individualism can be an isolating and lonely experience.

For some of you, it’s an insatiable craving for friendship and connection which creates feelings of desperate loneliness.  Even though you could be (unhappily) married, or have children (who secretly dislike you), for some of you, that’s just not enough.  Perhaps you feel like your life is stuck in second-gear, and it hasn’t been your day, your month or, even your year.  Given the opportunity, perhaps you don’t even have five good friends you could share a rundown, Manhattan penthouse with?  Don’t feel stupid or unpopular.  The trick to having friends is to systematically collect them.  Start by locating a weekly classes or activity, you can attend.  By seeing people on a regular basis, having shared interests, you build relationships.  Plan to acquire one new friend at each activity you go to.  Once you have four friends, meet each of them, once per month and continue to collect more.   The more classes you attend, the more friends you will make.  Simple.  Let’s say you attend two classes for six weeks; in just two years you could rack up 18 friends, filling both your diary and any rundown penthouses you want to live in.

Lastly, perhaps you are empathic to the isolation and social confusion of others, particularly young people and adolescents?  Maybe you want to reach out to help them, but you don’t know any?  One of the best ways you can do this is to go back to college and get a degree in English Literature.  You’ll also need to do a post-graduate year, to qualify as a teacher, then you will be able to apply for teaching jobs in wealthy,  conservative, mens colleges.  Once installed there, you will be able to play a pivotal role in broadening your student’s minds, creating a sub-community of attractive young men, all deeply connected through…poetry.  Don’t worry about getting fired for challenging the “system” through the power of verse (no limericks thank you).  Yes, you will change lives, (primarily your own), by surviving unemployment, without references or social security benefits.  Don’t worry, in twenty years time or so, you’ll be invited to their big weddings, lots of people will shake your hand and thank you for being “inspirational”; and you’ll get to eat and drink for free!

Another inspirational poetry teacher is invited to wedding.

Perhaps you are facing problems that you’d like my help with, in future articles? Write to me, confidentially, in the “comments” section below. I’ll answer every one I find interesting.

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Wembley Great Hall, 1st and 2nd Oct 2011

You’ve probably heard of Paul McKenna (McK) right, but might not have heard of Richard Bandler.  He’s something of a big guru in the world of NLP and hypnosis.  A controversial character for many reasons, none of which I can be bothered to bitch on about here.  His innovative techniques for phobias, metaphorical language and personal change, I’ve used with success.  I’ve never seen him because his training seminars are way out of my price range.  I have read some of his books one of which “A Guide to Trance-formation” I rate highly as a guide to learning hypnosis – if you ever want to.  Overall, I didn’t really know what to think, other than he’s got quite a dedicated fan club who dangle on his every hypnotic syllable (eugh).  So when the chance to see him for two days for £188 arrived in my inbox I took it, well I bought it from NLP Life actually.  Most of his training seminars cost thousands of pounds to attend (hence I haven’t done any of them) and this seemed (comparatively) a good deal.

In terms of “getting the life I wanted”, well when I booked this seminar I have to admit I didn’t really think that was something I particularly needed.  I’ve been feeling pretty happy with my life for a while now.  I do struggle to understand the pseudo spiritual culture rife at the moment like “The Secret” where the goal of life is – getting what you want.  If I was leading a seminar it would be called “Want the life you’ve already got” (and no one would come).  The real “secret” of a lot of this bull is about giving people unattainable dreams and then convincing them they can have them.  Then if they aren’t able to attain that dream (because it’s totally unrealistic and implausible and unachievable) then the problem is that they didn’t “believe” in it enough to make it happen.  So it’s their own stupid fault they’ve failed again.  I think there are kinder ways of seeing the world than this.  To be honest, I think it’s probably better for people if you just cut out the middle bit and told them at the start that the “Secret” is it’s all their own fault.  I think if you did it in a slightly mystical way with some soft music and a faraway look in your eye then it could be really effective.  I’ll try it out on people over the next couple of weeks and let you know how it goes.  Maybe in the playground, next time one of my mum chums comes to complain about her husband leaving dirty clothes on the bathroom floor, I can go into a slightly altered state and tell her that I “feel” (because a lot of this stuff runs on how we “feel” about things), yes, I feel that ultimately she is creating this situation and that only she can resolve it (because there is no longer any such thing as “fault” only incomplete solutions).

Ok, so you can see that I wasn’t the most ideal candidate for this seminar, but by the time it actually came round, I have to say I was feeling pretty uncertain about some of the decisions I was making about my future.  I’d lost my mojo somewhere around early August and blamed it on six weeks of holidays with my three darlings at home (what to speak of two weeks in a tent with them).  But it wasn’t really true, I had properly lost my mojo and didn’t know where or how to get it back.  I was happy enough, but just not as sparkly as I normally feel.  For example, I’d look at my blog and just not write it, even though I used to love it.  So I was sort of curious by the time it came round to see if it would help me, or if it would fill me with impossible dreams and then leave me on Sunday evening, waiting for a tube in the rain with big fantasy umbrella keeping me dry – if you know what I mean.

The first thing about the seminar that made a real impression on me was that McK opened it alone.  Yep, Bandler hadn’t bothered to get out of bed for 1,300 people (at an average price of £270 pp).  Unbelievable.  None of the “Hi, it’s like really lovely of you all to be here, this is gonna be so fabulous” etc etc ad nauseum.  I had to admit I sort of liked it him for it.  I mean how many of us sit through all sorts of shite just for the social nicety of it all.  Bandler didn’t.  I think I was envious as I was sitting through yet another McK enactment of his dream life as Sean Connery.  (He obviously hasn’t seen Megamind yet).

McKenna smoking during the break

McKenna smoking during the break

I think it went a bit like this the night before:

Bandler:  “Fuck it, McKenna you do the fucking morning, I’m not getting out of bed and driving all the way to fucking Wembley till I’ve had my fucking brunch.”

McK: “Er, ok, I’ll warm them up using my rather fabulous James Bond persona.  The natural charm and confidence I adopt will spread good feelings through the audience and……”

Bandler (interrupting) : “Do what the fuck you like, make them cluck like fucking chickens but don’t expect me there before 3pm”.

McKenna: “Ok M, leave it to me, ”.

Bandler: “What did you fucking call me?”

McK : “Nothing”

So McKenna did the morning.

Now I have to say I’ve seen McK a few times in the past.  The first time I saw him he was in a really bad mood.  I don’t know what was up with him – he was living the Bond life he wanted after all. Wearing a Bond suit, telling the time on a Bond watch, driving a Bond car, planning his career with a real life Money Penny;  and dating Bond girls – who turn in psychos and stab him in the back – hey what more could a guy want?  Anyway, I went to his I can make you thin event a few times, I bought tickets, I won tickets, I couldn’t get away.  And I couldn’t get thin either.

Ok, so let’s get back to Bandler, when he eventually got up and had brunch (he’s American and I believe they all have brunch every day; then hot dogs with yellow mustard in the afternoon when they’re doing their police jobs; then they have dinner somewhere swanky in the evening. Trust me, I’ve seen it ont’elly).  He managed to spur himself towards our event and arrive mid afternoon.  No rush, no rush.  Then he proceeded to tell outrageously funny (and seemingly embellished) stories of inventive therapy sessions he’d conducted.  Couldn’t help but like his stories and his irreverential style.  During all this he was spinning something called “nested loops”.  It’s a hypnotic technique where you begin a story and then digress with another story, and another etc building different levels within each story.  Then you do some subliminal work on the clients (us) and close the stories one by one in the right order.  Well, that’s how Bandler teaches it, but it’s certainly not how he does it himself.  I have to say many of the loops were not closed and I have no idea what the hell he was doing with them all over the place.  But I sure felt good by the end of the day and felt like he actually gave a shit about people’s mental well being.  This was also reflected in the imaginative and kind work he did with people on the stage.  Humble he is not, but skilled he certainly is.

On the second day there was an interesting exercise with McK where we looked at our values and from there our goals (yes, yawn, is there anyone who hasn’t done that a thousand times before), but then we put them on a time line and played around with them on there.  A timeline is an imaginary line depicting your life in chronological time.  You can move stuff around on it, change things and do interesting stuff with it therapeutically.  Anyway, eventually we went to the end of our lines (metaphorically our old age) and looked back over the part we’d been planning with our values etc and checked we were happy with it.  McK, then asked a few people in the audience about theirs.  Now a lot of the audience were NLPers (you can tell cos they look like estate agents.  “Height phobia Madam? I want you to imagine yourself in a low lying bungalow in Southend, feel how big the rooms are, notice how small and grey the price appears, would you like a viewing?”).  So, from the audience we got all the typical  I want, I want, I wants.  There were famous writers, famous musicians, famous filmmakers and famous photographers (notice a theme anyone?). Fine.

But as I looked down my own timeline there wasn’t anything famous on it.  I saw myself responsibly bringing up three children on my own, who I love.  I saw myself working as a hypnotherapist, which I love.  And I saw myself spending an inordinate amount of time getting a science degree from the Open University, which I will love.  Nothing sexy, glamorous, award winning, rich or famous along this line.  But as I looked back from my old age perspective I felt an incredibly powerful sense of well being, I felt the reward of being responsible to my children, the joy of helping people with their problems and the challenge of study.  And I felt an incredible sense of simple satisfaction that I’d spent those years of my life on those things.  And to be honest, there’s something a bit priceless about feeling that good about the life you’re living; the one you’re already actually living, not an imaginary life that you wish you had.  And right at that moment, I realized I’d found my mojo again.

Paul McKenna

Richard Bandler

The other good news is that I’ve picked up my blog and started writing (obviously) and begun to manically walk everywhere I go.  I’ve stopped over-eating and one week after the seminar have lost 5lbs.  I have also more strangely found myself doing stomach crunches at 5am in the living room before going back to bed (!!). I don’t know if it was Bandler or McK, but I have to say, I’m really glad I went along.

Bye xx

I’ve been trying to buy a second hand car.   This can be a difficult thing to accomplish as a single woman who knows nothing (useful) about cars.  My last car was a silver one and it was very expensive to maintain, as well as being very unreliable, so never get silver.

Another thing I learned last time, was to be very careful about who you buy it from.  Previously I have avoided all the dealers.  Instead, I bought my last car from a retired middle aged couple in leafy North Oxford.  They had a genuine reason for sale and were effusive about the car and sad to be selling it.  Turned out they were a couple of crafty old shysters who swapped my cash for scarp metal in their neighbour’s recycling boxes.

The man I bought my last car from

They’d banged an old tyre on at each corner and called it a “car”.  They assured me the engine was “very quiet” and off I rolled, literally downhill all the way from there.  They hadn’t climbed to the top of the Saga cruise ship without using other people as their stair lift in life, I was to discover.  The “car” had everything replaced by my local garage over the following three years.

This time I decided on a Vauxhall Zafira.  Wtf?  I hear you ask. I’m sure you imagined me in a vintage sports car or saw me as a sophisticated Yummy queuing up in environmentally customized 4×4 outside the school gates?   I hate to disappoint, but there are a few intelligent reasons which led me to choose Vauxhall over Lexus, Range Rover or Maserati – they’re all called price. Chiefly, the price is right because Zafira’s qualify for a government scheme called Motability for the disabled.  It’s really clever, just like the name, a synergistic combination of motor and motility, or motor and ability, (or motab and ility).  Anyway, exactly what the scheme is doing for the disabled?  By signing over the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) each month for three years, anyone in receipt of Higher DLA can lease a brand new car with full servicing, tyres and Road Tax included.  After three years they can chose to upgrade again to a brand new vehicle if required.  This clever scheme has run since the 1970s and has managed to both create a whole consumer base for new cars (people who would never have afforded them and wanted to get out) and simultaneously has managed to boost the flagging motor trade with thousands of sales per annum.  Clever eh?  It was introduced by the Late Lord Goodman (before he died).  Anyway, the upshot for me of all this is that there are tons of second hand Zafira’s around,  they’re low in price,  low in miles and have a full service history.  I was going to have one.  Motability is the biggest supplier of second-hand cars in the motor industry, but you can only get one of their used cars from a motor dealer.

So out on the hunt for a good deal, I first visited the Bellinger Vauxhall dealership in Wantage.  I had two of the “Oh-my- god children” (omgc) with me, which sufficiently deterred any of the salesmen from an approach.  We even ventured into one of their glassy showrooms where I acquired lots of new biros (and the omgc acquired all the complimentary biscuits).  We were just about to leave; feeling very satisfied that Vauxhall had a lot to offer, when a salesman approached.  Five minutes later I found myself huddled over a brochure trying to decide which of the brand new cars I’d be most interested in.  The omgc excelled themselves by playing quietly together near one of the show cars.  Sensing my dilemma (I don’t actually want a new car), my dealer said if I wasn’t fussy on colour, he’d see what he could do.  (Please god, not silver.)   He disappeared for ten minutes and when he came back he generously added £1,000 to the price of each of the cars, saying he’d found the new price list.  Weird.  At this point I wanted a fast exit, so I asked the omgc to stop filling the show car with forecourt gravel and we left.

I needed a car with more space for the kids

Now, I learned an important thing on that outing.  No one takes a woman seriously if she has two dirty young boys in tow.  She’s just not considered mentally competent.  So when I visited Hartwell Vauxhall in Kidlington, I made sure I amassed four dirty young boys and an idea of a competitive price.  The hustle was on.  And then it was off.  Could it have been the sight of my old banger part askew on their lot, or the sound of breaking plastic which arose unidentifiably from the back seats while we did the test drive?  I’m not sure, but I was mighty upset when I saw Sami prize the top off the gumball machine and generously share his stolen hoard.  I rushed over hoping no one else had seen.  Patiently, I explained that they had to pay for the sweets and they were there to help sick children with Leukaemia.  Looking at me with total scorn, omgc #1 said “Eating loads of sweets isn’t going to make them better.”  Another hasty exit, (but I didn’t make the kids empty their pockets of gobstoppers).

Eventually, I found a car.  Well, actually my 85 year old mother found it in her local paper.   She told me to ring the garage in Tewkesbury, and while I was on the phone she interrupted asking;

“Will they take a cheque or do they want cash”

“Would they prefer a Banker’s Draft?”

“Can you pay now by phone, or do they need the card?”

Eventually, I told her that we’d play them hard by going to see the car before buying it. Savvy – that’s me.

Jason Jones Autocare was the final stop on my car buying journey.  He turned out to be brilliantly eccentric, everything I’d ever imagined in a second-hand car dealer.  He was vaguely recognisable from the photo on his website, obviously taken around 1988, when he was svelte and youthful.  He couldn’t find any of the many cars he’d promised me were in stock.  He couldn’t work the basics on his own computer and had to get someone old enough to be his grandfather to tell him where to click (it was that hard).  He also had a great sense of humour (obviously).  However, he managed to get me the car I wanted and to undercut the main Vauxhall dealers by about £1,500.  This was without giving me any special discounts or deals, so what can I do but recommend him?

Oh, and just in case you’re wondering, he knew all about the silver cars and he advised me to go for a blue one.  He said they’re really reliable and never crash.

Me and my new motor

(Should I mention that the kids smashed a window on it before it was a week old?)

Nah,  let’s not spoil it eh?