Am I having a midlife crisis or is the whole of the UK?

Planet exploding having midlife crisis

Am I having a midlife crisis? As I approach the big 50 I find myself thinking more and more about my life. My body is different, I’m going through peri-menapause ( what is that all about!), my children are growing up and there is a lack of direction in my life. But I was also wondering about the UK. We are now no longer a part of Europe, have a general election coming up and have just endured another terrorist attack by a British born bomber. Is the UK in the middle of a midlife crisis too?

What does midlife crisis mean?

Midlife means the middle of one’s life. Crisis means ‘a decisive time’ or ‘time of difficulty or danger’. Midlife (according wikipedia) is the time from years 45–64, where a person is often evaluating his or her own life. This makes sense. Day-to-day stresses add up but it’s not really a crisis ( as in the second meaning) but more reflecting on what has gone before and what is to come. Although the modern idea of a particular kind of middle-age malaise goes back to Freud and Jung, the term “midlife crisis” was first used by Elliot Jaques in 1965, a Canadian psychoanalyst, who described how people entering middle age are confronted with the limitations of their life and their own mortality. Continue reading Am I having a midlife crisis or is the whole of the UK?

How has body image changed over the years?

How body image has changed over time

In my last post I talked about a positive body image and what we parents can do to help our children (and ourselves.) While researching this topic I was surprised to see how the way we view the perfect body shape has changed over the years.

If you lived during the 1950’s then you might have come across an advert like this.

 1950's advert for body image too skinny
1950’s advert

Or this

1950's advert shows different body image of today
How to put on weight!

Being thin was not considered a good body shape and there were people (men in white coats!) who could show you how to change it using pills. How different to today when you are more likely to see adverts and programmes about weight loss not weight gain. Continue reading How has body image changed over the years?

What is a positive body image and how important is it for our children today?

Positive body image used in Notting Hill
Notting Hill

What does body image mean?

I think I have quite a healthy body image. I’m not saying I would do a ‘Rhys Ifans’ (ie. posture in my pants for the cameras as he did in Notting Hill) but I do find myself saying ‘Not bad, not bad’ when catching a glimpse of my reflection.

Body image has nothing to do with how you look, but how you feel about the way you look and how you embrace and accept your own body.

Continue reading What is a positive body image and how important is it for our children today?

What is the Irish Dancing World Championships?

 

Decision time at Irish Dancing World Championships

If you have a child who does Irish dancing, you will know that the Worlds are just around the corner. For those of you who don’t, let me explain (and read my book The Reel).

The Irish Dancing World Championships (often known simply as the Worlds) are held annually during the Easter Week. It is the biggest Irish Dancing competition in the World and the main goal of all Irish dancers. Until 1999, the Championships were held permanently in Ireland. Since 2000, however, they have been held in a number of countries including Northern Ireland, Scotland, England, the United States and Canada.

The World Championships have happened every year since 1970 except for 2001 which had to be cancelled due to a Foot-and-mouth outbreak in Ireland.

Images of Irish dancing

Continue reading What is the Irish Dancing World Championships?

Philanthropy? What does it mean?

Philanthropy? What does it mean?

Philanthropy - giving your money to those who need it most
Philanthropy is on the rise

If you have made lots of money on the stock market, in your business or even on the horses, what should you do with it? Invest it, spend it or give it away. If you give it away then you are a philanthropist. But what exactly does that mean?

The dictionary definition of philanthropy is

“the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes”

The Sunday Times devised a ‘Giving List of 2016‘ to showcase the people who give a percentage of their worth to good causes and the list is growing. People are ranked according to the percentage of the money they give away in relation to the amount of money that person is worth or has earned. So in the UK, the number one philanthropist is Lord David Sainsbury (great-grandson to the founder of the supermarket chain). He is worth £220.5 million and has given away 40% of his family wealth. Sir Elton John at number 10 has given away 10% of his wealth.  Alisher Umanov (shareholder at Arsenal football club) worth £7580 million has given away £100 million which although is a huge amount is only equivalent to 1.41%.

The Queen ranks at number 166 giving only 0.3% of her wealth away. And Richard Branson was worse at number 173 giving away only 0.28%. There were also comparisons between sporting celebrities. Colin Montgomerie (golf) is worth £35 million and has given away £0.9 million whereas Andy Murray (tennis) who has £57 million has only given away £0.1 million.

Why should people give their money away?

Philanthropy - Giving your money away to those who need it most

This may seem unfair of me to be criticising people who are after all giving away their money. They earned it, why shouldn’t they keep it all or keep a lot of it. My question is how much do you need? And do you want to make a difference? Do you want to leave behind or start creating a philanthropic footprint? Something that makes a difference to others and will be remembered in history for ever.

As a follower on Twitter of the Gates Foundation (Bill and Melinda Gates) I see them give their money and time to raise awareness of many issues like poverty, education and medicine. The Polio vaccine that they fund through their foundation has saved 18,600 lives a day since 1990. The number of polio cases around the world is now just 36! They have almost eradicated polio. That is an amazing philanthropic footprint that they have created. Yes, they have the money and yes, they can’t spend it all but they are making a difference. They have a lot and obviously that helps. Bill Gates is worth $87 billion but has already given away $27 billion and pledged to give away at least half of all his worth.

Who is the most philanthropic person in the world?

Number one is Warren Buffet. A self-made billionaire who has joined the Giving Pledge. An idea created originally through talks between the Gates, Warren Buffet and other billionaires across the world to encourage the very rich to pledge to give away a considerable sum of their money. It was once thought of as common to talk about how much money one earned or had. Now the rich seem more open to discussing it, especially if it is measured in how you are helping others rather than how many Ferraris and houses you have. It can be no coincidence that the Sunday Times created this ‘Giving List’ on the back of the ‘Rich List’ that they do every year.

Warren Buffet has pledged to donate 99% of his wealth. His pledge says

“More than 99% of my wealth will go to philanthropy during my lifetime or at death. Measured by dollars, this commitment is large. In a comparative sense, though, many individuals give more to others every day. Millions of people who regularly contribute to churches, schools, and other organizations thereby relinquish the use of funds that would otherwise benefit their own families. The dollars these people drop into a collection plate or give to United Way mean forgone movies, dinners out, or other personal pleasures. In contrast, my family and I will give up nothing we need or want by fulfilling this 99% pledge.”

I love his honesty. Keeping 1% of his worth still enables him and his family to continue the lifestyle he wants. He goes on to say about how time is a more precious commodity to give up than money and how generous some people are with this. You must read the pledges these billionaires have written. It makes me optimistic for the future where wealth can be shared to benefit all not just the few.

What did philanthropy look like a hundred years ago

If you want to leave a philanthropic footprint behind you, then take inspiration from this list of philanthropists from years ago. This is compiled by the Beacon awards who highlight work in this area.

  1. Barney Hughes 1808-1878 (Belfast) Bernard Hughes worked as a bakers’ boy for 6 years and in 1870 was recognised as the cities’ leading baker. He was the owner of the largest baking enterprise in Ireland. His production supplied Belfast’s poorer population with much-needed cheap bread, particularly during the harsh years of the Great Famine. He gained the respect of the community as a municipal politician and industrial reformer, donating the ground for St Peter’s Cathedral.
  2. George Cadbury 1839 – 1922 (Birmingham) George Cadbury, son of the founder of the chocolate factory, was driven by a passion for social reform. He wanted to create clean and sanitary conditions for his workers in contrast to the reality of factories in Victorian Britain. He set new standards for living and working conditions and gave the Bourneville estate to the Bourneville Village Trust in 1901. The trust was founded to develop the local community and its surroundings.
  3. Sir Montague Maurice Burton 1885 – 1952 (Leeds) A Lithuanian immigrant with just £100 to his name, founded Burton, one of Britain’s largest clothing shop chains. He started a tailoring business with the philanthropic aim of clothing the entire male population in good quality, affordable suits. He enforced an unusually short working day for the time of 8 hours, and became one of the first to instill formal welfare provisions in the workplace, introducing food halls, leisure groups and activities such as theatre, dance and sports teams. The company works closely with Cancer Research UK funding research into bowel cancer. It has supported the Movember Prostate Charity Campaign with the ‘Burton’ moustache, modeled on the moustache of their founder.

So why do we celebrate eating pancakes?

 

Pancakes on plate
Pancakes on pancake day

I love pancakes. So having a day to celebrate them is my idea of heaven. But why do we?

Okay, so we’re not really celebrating pancakes. We are celebrating Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras (sometimes known as Fat Tuesday in America, Sweden and France) and Carnival Tuesday in Trinidad and Tobago.

The name Shrove Tuesday comes from ‘shrive’, meaning absolution for sins by doing penance. A bell was rung to call Christians to go to Confession, where they admitted their sins to a priest and asked for absolution.

In France, it is called ‘Fat Tuesday’ because of the ancient custom of parading a fat ox through Paris. The ox was to remind the people that they were not allowed to eat meat during Lent.

So why is it called Pancake Day?

Pancake day came about much later on as a way of using up all the fats and foods that would not be eaten during fasting. In America it is called ‘Fat Tuesday’ because people use up their ‘fatty foods’ before Lent.

I found this explanation of Pancake day in Denmark and how it has its roots in history.

“To the Dutch it is called “Vastenavond” or “Dikke Dinsdag”. It is celebrated in the southern regions of the Netherlands and marks the last day of a celebration called “carnaval”. After this celebration a time of cleansing is done. Traditionally, around the start of February there would be a feast. This was the last opportunity to eat well before a time of food shortage at the end of the winter. On what nowadays is called “Vastenavond” meaning “the days before fasting” everyone ate the remaining winter stores of butter, lard, and meat before it began to rot, as livestock was slaughtered in the previous November.

It can’t be a coincidence that Lent is timed to match these lean months, with fasting helping the remaining food last longer.

Celebrating before fasting

This tradition of celebrating and then fasting happens in religions across the world.

In Hinduism it is believed that many diseases and damages to one’s body come from harmful substances in the digestive system. Hence, by fasting, one can purify himself, put his body to rest, and become healthier. Buddhists believe that fasting shows their determination to stay away from selfish desires, save the planet and all living creatures, and control their own greed. Muslims feel the most important reason to fast is for muslims to cleanse their bodies to present themselves to God and forgiveness for all their sins. Jews believe fasting will help them focus and bring them closer to forgiveness.

And before there was religion, there was nature. Hunting, foraging and storing food occured without fridges and freezers. So it makes sense that fasting occurred around this time, towards the end of Winter ready for Spring and the new seasonal foods she brought.

There is a common theme here. Indulge before fasting. We eat up all the good foods and then limit what we eat for so many weeks afterwards. Now what does that remind you of? Oh yes, Christmas. We eat all the rich and decadent foods and then go on a diet in January. Indulge before fasting. You might not be religious but I’m sure you’ve done this.

Pancakes and traditions

Celebrating Pancake day is a really old tradition but I found some other interesting traditions for Pancake day.

In Ireland, Pancakes would be cooked on the stove, and the honour of tossing the first pancake would go to the eldest, unmarried daughter. If she was successful, she would be married within the year.

In Canada, objects with symbolic value are baked into the pancakes, such as coins, nails, wedding rings and buttons. The lucky one to find coins in their pancake will be rich, the finder of the ring will be the first married, the finder of the nail will become a carpenter and the finder of the button will be a seamstress or tailor.

Dating back as far as the 12th century, many towns throughout England used to hold traditional Shrove Tuesday football (‘Mob Football’) games. Some still do. For two hours, men and women take part in  a ruby type of scrum to claim the football. Streets are closed and shops are boarded up to minimise the damage. Anything goes, and the only rule is that the ball is not allowed to leave the town’s boundaries. When the time is up, the man with the football in his hands is declared the winner, and gets to keep the ball as a trophy.

World record pancakes

  1. The tallest stack of pancakes is 101.8 cm (213 pancakes) and was made by Center Parcs Sherwood Forest, UK on 8 February 2016. (Guinness Book of records)
  2. The most pancakes made in one hour by an individual is 1,127 by Erica Price in Kansas, USA, on 17 April 2016.
  3. The Co-operative Union Ltd based in Manchester, England, made a pancake measuring 15.01 m in diameter and 2.5 cm deep on August 13, 1994.
  4. The oldest pancake race happened in 1445. According to legend, when the church bells rang for Shrove Tuesday service, a housewife wasn’t finished grilling the cakes. Not wishing to ruin her pancakes, she ran to the church with pan in hand. In memory of this housewife, women in Buckinghamshire, UK compete every Shrove Tuesday in a 415-yard race in which they must carry a pancake in a skillet.
  5. The Guinness Book of World Records does not recognize pancake eating as a category, but at an event at The Pancake Parlour in Melbourne, Australia, Hayden wilson ate 80 pancakes in 17 minutes and 26 seconds. That’s about 2.5kg of pancakes in less than 20 minutes.
  6. The fastest flipper of a pancake is Brad Jolly, who holds the record for most tosses of a pancake in one minute. He did 140 flips in 60 seconds during an event in Sydney, Australia in 2012.
  7. Dominic Cuzzacrea tossed his pancake 9.47 metres in the air at the Walden Galleria Mall in New York, USA, in November 2010.
  8. An incredible team made and flipped 76,382 pancakes in 8 hours at Centennial Olympic Park, Atlanta, USA, back in May 2009. A total of 175 volunteers using 37 griddles cooked the pancakes and dished them out to approximately 20,000 people.

I won’t be making 76,382 pancakes tonight although it will probably feel like it. And if you are eating out here are some ideas happening around London. Happy Pancake Day everyone.