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Never

Posted by Simon on 9th, December 2017 at 16:45:17

Just like it's said there are only so many kinds of stories, there are also only so many themes for a blog. 

But one I come back to time and again, because it's so worth it. 

I've been in London for a reason I'll explain in a minute, and I happened to walk past what I've now come to think of as a metaphor for the week. 

MMMMileniumwheel.JPG

It's the job of a big wheel like the London Eye to keep on going whatever. 

And that's such an important lesson in life. 

This week came news from a writing friend - 

She had what I've always thought of as a great idea for a book. She's a terrific writer, very strong on characters, settings and stories...

But she suffered the traditional fate of any fine scribbler.

She got turned down by publishers, had hassles with her agent, lost her confidence, began to doubt herself.

In brief, all the usual agonies we humans go through. 

It was a long journey, lasting for many months, as she struggled on, refined her work, again and again, and kept trying - 

And this week came the offer of a publishing deal. 

As for me, about eighteen months ago, with a good friend, I wrote a radio comedy. 

We liked it lots (you know how I've always thought I'm funny, despite the evidence to the contrary.)

We polished and honed, then pitched it to various companies and got... nowhere.

For months. Absolutely bloody nowhere. 

So the evil thought inevitably starts to whisper - 

Maybe it's time to give up? 

Never. 

Never, never, never. 

JK Rowling got rejected, so did The Beatles, Agatha Christie had years of it, and so many others.

And did they give up? 

So we kept going, kept pitching, kept the dream alive, and this week a radio producer said how much they liked it and asked to meet up to discuss the series. 

Ok, there's a long way to go before it's a hit - that's both my comedy, and my friend's book. 

But! 

At least we're in the game, and doing ok at it.

Because we never gave up. 

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The Little Things

Posted by Simon on 2nd, December 2017 at 16:31:58

It's an old saying that little things mean a lot, and I can certainly echo that. 

I am the proud owner of a new tie - 

TTTTie.jpg

The SMCC stands for South Molton Community College, where I was privileged to be the guest at their Presentation Evening this week. 

I made a little speech and gave out the awards for achievement, merit and effort, and the exam certificates. 

I don't charge a fee for events like this, because I think it's the right thing to do -

To give something back to the community in recognition of all the good fortune I've been lucky enough to know, and to see if I can encourage young people on to bright futures. 

So it was quite a surprise to hear one of the teachers, who was also speaking, talk about the hundreds, and, in some cases, thousands of pounds that some people ask for giving speeches at such events. 

But who needs the money when you've can have this instead?

Firstly - the quiet appreciation of all the parents and staff who thanked me for taking the time to come to their school and support them. 

Secondly - the smiles and pride of the students at their achievements. 

And thirdly, being part of the work of a school who say they don't want to pay out large sums of money to guests, when it could far better be spent on educating their students. 

(And quite right too in my humble view.)

But the college did want to do something to thank me, and other like-minded speakers who visit. 

So they had these lovely ties made. 

That means much more to me than a fat cheque. 

Much, much more. 

I shall wear my new tie with great pride. 

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The Confidence Suit

Posted by Simon on 25th, November 2017 at 16:29:43

I was asked a flattering question at an inspiration and aspiration event I did for school students last week - 

Standing in front of a hundred people, for a demanding four hour session, how can you be so confident? 

I might have banked some glory, and said, "it just comes naturally...", or "it's down to experience...", or "it's all in the planning..."

Instead, I was honest and told my young questioner - 

It's the confidence suit.

I was reminded of the question this week, when at a magnificent art exhibition in Cambridge (the city does lots of this cultural stuff, and despite looking like a beer swilling buffoon I do love it) - 

CCCConfidence suit.JPG

Why is one of these statues looking far more contented than the other? 

Because he's got the confidence suit on. Or in this case, the confidence shades. 

It doesn't just come naturally, it's not down to the experience, or the planning. 

And I'm not naturally super confident, standing there in front of a big group of people, trying to keep them interested, amused, entertained and educated for four hours. 

It's this - 

I learnt early that you have to be what people want you to be at events like this. 

So every time I do an event, I put on the confidence suit.

And bless it, with all its finesse, joy and finery, and the adventures it's taken me on -

It's the finest thing I ever wore.

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Staying Young

Posted by Simon on 18th, November 2017 at 17:05:47

I may have discovered the secret of eternal youth. 

(Quite a claim I know, but I'm in that kind of mood.)

I've had an amazing week. Firstly, talking to some 15/16 year olds at Pembroke College, Cambridge University, about raising aspirations. 

YYYyoung44.jpg

These are some of the students, and what a wonderful group, you can see it in the picture. So polite, smart, creative and full of energy, a real pleasure to work with. 

Next came a session on the secrets of success with eight schools from across Devon, Dorset and Somerset, which was an incredibly uplifting day. 

I tried a new exercise, giving groups of five a minute to address the United Nations about an issue of great importance to them.

The youngsters were 13 - 16 years old and it was a tough ask, to decide on their theme and then get orating. But it went magnificently. Such knowledge, passion and power with their words -

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SarWrqWd2_I&feature=youtu.be 

Finally, it was a switch of nations to talk to some American students, from Dartmouth University, about Brexit.

And even though it was far from their home turf, they were full of smart, incisive questions and analysis. 

I've rattled on repeatedly in these musings about why I'm committed to working with young people, and encouraging them to do the best they can with their precious lives. 

But there's a wonderful, if selfish, by-product of that altruistic motivation - 

It sure does make you feel young.

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Liberty, Heroes, and a Trio of Thoughts

Posted by Simon on 11th, November 2017 at 16:47:37

I got to meet my hero this week. 

I happened to be at BBC HQ in London, with the radio comedy unit (it's an ambition of mine to write for them, if I can work out how to be funny) and there he was outside, keeping an eye on the visitors. 

Ooorwell.JPG

Ok, I know he was beyond a proper meeting, but even some time with your late hero can make you reflect on why they mean so much to you. 

The quotation was well chosen, I think, for the entrance to an organisation which lives by free speech. 

And as I stood there, thinking, it occured to me that it was Remembrance Weekend. 

When we honour those countless millions of men and women who died for our freedom today. 

(Who are also heroes of mine, incidentally. And before anyone starts talking about the horrors of war, yes, I agree.

War is horrible beyond words. But when all our lives are threated, and our way of life too, the brave stand up for liberty.)

Then, on the train home, came part three on my trio of thoughts.

I was reading a newspaper, which contained a story about no platforming (the practice of denying people whose lawful (if highly distasteful) views a certain group disagrees with from being allowed to speak). 

It's something which has been a great concern to writers and journalists, and understandably so. 

And there was George Orwell, like a true visionary, standing up with an answer, dozens of years before no platforming was even invented.

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