My 10 cutest animals

A nice and short post today: just my list of the 10 cutest animals!

10) Lambs


Photo credit: Ben_Kerckx @ pixabay

I used to run past a field of sheep. During lambing season, they produced so many lovely small and fluffy lambs!

9) Pandas


Photo credit: skeeze @pixabay

I had the pleasure of seeing a live panda at Beijing Zoo when I visited in 2012. They really are lazy!

8) Squirrels


Photo credit: LoggaWiggler @ pixabay

My garden this year has been the host of many visiting squirrels.

7) Raccoons


Photo credit: HNBS @ pixabay

Look at that derpy face! ūüėõ

6) Greyhounds


Photo credit: KlausHausmann @ pixabay

Mum and I had a greyhound for several years. Toffee, he was called. The calmest and sweetest dog I’ve every met.

5) Cats


Photo credit: Alexas_Fotos @ pixabay

I had a cat once. I called it Obi Wan Kenobi. No wonder mum never let me have another one!

4) Ducks


Photo credit: Couler @ pixabay

Ducks are so cute, they make me wish I had a pond.

3) Otters


Photo credit: Stevebidmead @ pixabay

Otters, the lovers of the river.

2) Hedgehogs


Photo credit: amayaeguizabal @ pixabay

Coming from a rural village, I’ve come across many hedgehogs in my garden. I’ve become so attached, I’ve begun developing a collection of mini hedgehog statues!

1) Pugs


Photo credit: mayatoo @ pixabay

Since being bought a pug calendar a couple of years back, I just can’t get over how cute they are. When I get a place of my own, I want to get a pug and call him Norman.

Thanks to Jamie Nuttall for the suggestion of a pug related post!


Memories of my childhood #1

My parents broke up when I was very young. Whilst I still saw my dad on a regular basis, I lived with my mum for the majority of the time. Being a single parent, and having already established a career, my mum was the sole breadwinner for my household. As a consequence I spent a lot of time at my childminder’s house¬†during my primary school years.

In retrospect, Margaret had a magical way with the children she cared for. Her style was to be a grandmother-like figure, who kept little rascals under control through warmth and love rather than an iron fist. I cannot recollect a single occasion in which she had to discipline any of us (though I am sure there were times!), such was her ability to positively shape our behaviour.

What does dominate my memories at Margaret’s was the amount of freedom we were afforded. For those few years, I feel like I had a genuinely playful and active childhood. For many a day, upon returning from the local primary school, us kids would be allowed to explore Margaret’s garden. Being a young boy, Margaret’s garden became a landscape of adventure. It was the perfect size, and wooded enough, to play countless games of hide-and-seek. On the lawn we would play football in the summer and make snow angels in the winter snow. We would often play ball games in the small yard near Margaret’s front door.

Me, dressed as a pirate on Margaret’s staircase. Why I am standing like that I’ll never know!

If the weather was bad, or when we got tired, we would go inside and dress up in costumes. Margaret had a Sega Game Gear, on which I played numerous hours of Sonic the Hedgehog. We would play with a wooden train set, or plastic farm animals. The best fun¬†of all though was had on Margaret’s small, electronic pinball machine.

Most importantly, visiting Margaret’s was a social experience. From very early on I had the pleasure of meeting two local girls, Frances (who was two years older than me) and her younger sister, Lucy (who was a year younger than me). I can confidently say that they were my first two best friends. One striking memory of the three of us together, one that I¬†look back with great nostalgia, was when we invented the game ‘Big Fat¬†Potato’. A simple concept, the game essentially involved one person sitting on a swing tied to the branch of a tree above, and being pushed by the other two in all directions. As we pushed we’d sing a song, the main lyric of which was ‘Oh! Big fat¬†potato!’. How or why this game came about I am unsure, but it brought us great giggling joy at the time.

Now, I am just about to leave university, and I live a long way away from my former childhood playground. As an adult, I often wonder if the generation growing up today still play in the same way? Coming from a rural village I still see a lot of children out playing, but I also know a lot of kids who spend all day inside on video games or the computer. Video games are fun, no doubt, but there is little substitute for the socialisation and exercise that playing outdoors with others can bring.

Thankfully, I am still in (irregular) touch with one of the sisters, Lucy. All three of us went to the same secondary school and sixth-form. I suppose our childhood connection has kept us on each other’s radar. It is strange to think that Lucy herself is now away at university! I sometimes walk past Margaret’s house when I visit home, and have a little peek up the drive way. It has changed a lot since my childhood, but it still emanates a magic, a tingle of excitement. Sometimes I think to myself, if I walk through the gate, could I go back to being a little child¬†playing at Margaret’s?

Football and Social Action

Yesterday hosted a niche, if not understated, event in YouTube and social action history. Sidemen FC faced off the YouTube Allstars at Southampton’s St. Mary’s Stadium in the biggest charity football match in YouTube’s eleven-year run. There were around 15,000 spectators at the stadium, whilst a further 400,000 watched the YouTube hosted live stream. The video of the match has received over 4 million views in the last 24 hours. In addition, the event can be considered a fundraising success, as according to the match commentary, over ¬£100,000 was raised for Special Effect and the Saints Foundation.

If you are not a fan of either football, or regular viewer of YouTube content, this event may not seem all that important. Nonetheless, the match’s success¬†has notable¬†implications for social action. The target demographic for most of the YouTubers on both teams is¬†young people, with many in the crowd being younger than college age. To attract and engage so many of the younger generation with¬†a charity event is an achievement in itself.

What is most important, though, is the example this event has given to many in the younger generations. The YouTubers playing the match have acted as role models for voluntary action by rolling up their own sleeves and taking on a challenge for a wider cause. By running an exciting spectacle of a fundraiser (the final score was 7-2 to Sidemen FC so it was pretty fun to watch!), the organisers have demonstrated to their audience that social action can be fun.

If we want our young people to be community minded, to consistently ask themselves ‘how can I contribute to the welfare of my community?’, then we need to start teaching them early on the methods and benefits of social action. Young people are an amazing resource of energy, enthusiasm and innovation. What better direction to aim those qualities at than at the betterment of the community and the lives of those in need? ¬†I say a huge well done to anyone who can demonstrate to young people the importance of volunteering and fundraising for charity.

If you’d like to watch the match, which was pretty spectacular, then you can do so here.

Photo credit: YouTube Creators tweet, available here.

‘The Pier Falls’ review

Four years since the publication of his last adult novel,¬†The Red House, Mark Haddon released last month a collection of short stories in the beautifully bound¬†The Pier Falls. The new book marks an evolution and maturation in Haddon’s writing that, in retrospect, should not have been all that unexpected.¬†The Pier Falls is undoubtedly more ‘dark’ than his previous works.¬†The Curious¬†Incident¬†of the Dog in the Night-Time, possibly Haddon’s best known work and currently on tour as a play, dealt with the difficulties of autism and relationship breakdown, but took a more light-hearted tone.¬†A Spot of Bother and¬†The Red House both had dark undertones, revolving around themes of terminal cancer and miscarriage respectively, but were so well peppered with humour and a sense of ‘ordinariness’ that the more ominous elements were always well tempered.

LessThan50IconReview in <50 words:¬†Death and mortality are dominant¬†themes of Haddon’s short stories, whilst Haddon returns to mental health issues addressed in previous works. The major strengths of¬†The Pier Falls are: attention of to detail that provoke a sense of familiarity; relatable characters; well-paced tales; and quirky¬†humour.

Here Haddon forces us to confront our mortality. Death is a recurring theme throughout all the stories, but what makes them all so gripping is the different perspectives taken on the subject. Haddon guides us to experience death in the first and third person, in dramatic fashion and through simple decay. In doing so, Haddon raises questions about our response to death; should we fear it, or accept it?

Photo: Hardback of The Pier Falls sold at all good book retailers.

An element that provides the new collection with some continuity from previous works is the persistence of mental health subtexts. The Curious Incident chronicled the world through the eyes of a boy with autism. Hypochondria plagued the protagonist of A Spot of Bother. Mixed throughout the tales of The Pier Falls are characters whose own mental states fluctuate and deteriorate when they are confronted with the more gruelling challenges of life.

Nonetheless, Haddon introduces various themes previously left relatively untouched throughout his work, including: how to treat¬†those in a position of need or dependency; the passage of time; the supernatural (albeit The Red House¬†hinted in this direction); and¬†inequality. Whilst brief, Haddon’s contributions to these topics are quite pertinent. Also interesting to note is the inspiration which Haddon has taken from classical myth, folklore and history in several of the stories. In doing so, Haddon ties his interpretations to a deeper meaning and gives them more weight.

Overall, the collection is a gripping ride.

Haddon has a remarkable ability to dissect and transmit the details of everyday life. Observations on the setting, from the weather to a rooms furniture, provide a realism to the imagery that Haddon evokes. All the stories succeed in transporting you to a new, but familiar place, despite the range of times and locations that set each scene.

Once more, the stories are seasoned¬†with Haddon’s humour, painlessly eliciting laughter, even during¬†the more inappropriate moments. The greatest strength of¬†A Spot of Bother was how funny a read it was, an attribute that¬†The Pier Falls, though not to such a great extent.

Overall, the collection is a gripping ride. It took about nine hours to read from cover to cover, and was difficult to put down during that time. Most tales are well-paced; most come to a close just as the novelty of the situation has worn off, though others leave you desperate to know more. Most characters are well developed, for short stories, and highly relatable. If aspects of yourself are not reflected back at you, then you will certainly be able to see the traits of others you know. Haddon has cemented his place as my favourite author by providing another thrilling book. I eagerly await any future works he may produce, and would thoroughly recommend The Pier Falls and his older novels to any reader.

You can follow Mark Haddon on Twitter here.

Lessons from Jesus’ Golden Rule

And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.

Matthew 22:39

And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

Luke 6:31

Jesus, when asked by a lawyer for the ‘greatest’ commandment, gave two answers. The first was to love God, but the second, quoted from Matthew 22 above, is of interest here. Whether religious or not, Jesus’ ‘Golden Rule’, or the ‘ethic of reciprocity’ conveys¬†a valuable moral message. As explained through these four lessons, the¬†Golden Rule reveals how we should be community-minded, compassionate and proactive individuals.

1) Respect

In both the quotations from Matthew and Luke there is a balance between the treatment of yourself and others. Jesus assumed¬†that we all acknowledge¬†how ¬†our self interest includes¬†being treated, as a minimum, no worse than others. No-one would seek¬†out harm from others, and so we should not seek to deliver it. Appeals to our sense of fairness and justice were being made here. Inherent in the idea of fairness is the recognition of other people’s innate worth. Whether humans have innate worth because they are believed to all be part of God’s creation, or whether individuals are all seen as being born equal in a secular sense, the conclusion we can take from this is much the same. We should treat people¬†with the respect they deserve.

2) Individuality

Respecting others is a task to be achieved¬†universally and uniformly. Nevertheless, Jesus still accepted the place of difference between individuals. The quotation from Luke was couched within a message of loving your enemies. Within the same chapter, Jesus called on us not to judge others. The language Jesus used is just as revealing. He asked for fair and equal action when he said¬†‘do so to them’. There was no mention of ‘being’ like others. Whilst this is an inference, there does seem to be a recognition that we do not all need to¬†be¬†the same. We should express our individuality, acknowledge¬†our differences and our similarities, shy away from judging others, whilst treating¬†others with respect.

After all, did the Good Samaritan wait for the beaten man to call for help?

3) Compassion

‘Love’ is a broad concept, stretching from the passion between soulmates to the respect between two strangers. Nonetheless, the use of ‘love’ in this context is explained by its correspondence with ‘neighbour’. When asked ‘who is my neighbour?’ (Luke 10:29), Jesus explained, through the parable of the Good Samaritan, that a neighbour is anyone in need of our help. Thus, in the Golden Rule, Jesus implored us to spread our love beyond our family and friends. Love, in the wider sense, should be communal by nature.

Not only that, but we should engage with those in need within our community. Just as the Good Samaritan showed his love by going to the aid of a stranger, we should act in compassion by helping¬†those in need around us. Need takes many different forms, from the physical, to the financial, to the emotional. We ought to¬†be generous and versatile in our compassion. If all individuals¬†committed themselves to supporting their family and friends, volunteering in their community, or donating to charity, then everyone’s welfare would be all the more secure.

4) Proactive

In phrasing the Golden Rule in a positive way, i.e. ‘do so to them’ as you would be treated rather than ‘do not do to them’ as you would like not to be treated, Jesus implied an element of proactivity in his statement. Jesus did not want us to just avoid taking negative and harmful actions. Instead, he seemingly believed that we should not wait for an invitation to spread our compassion.

For example, if we were suffering alone, we would hope that if someone saw our struggle they would come to our aid without the need to be asked. If we are to love our neighbours accordingly, then, we must be proactive in our compassion, and seek out those who need our help. When our kin and community are in clear need of assistance, we should offer ourselves in service. There is no need to wait for a summons, as by then it may be too late to solve the problem. After all, did the Good Samaritan wait for the beaten man to call for help? Did he just leave him money and continue on his way? No. The Samaritan saw the need for help, forgot his differences, approached with compassion, and acted with initiative, as we all should.

Image Credit: Image Finder: this image is from and is licensed under Creative Commons 0.

Reflections on Reflections

A comment made at¬†many parents’ evenings throughout school was that I was a quiet boy. ‘He rarely raises his hand to answer questions’ they complained, but they had to concede that I never disrupted¬†the flow of the class. ‘Conscientious’ was the most consistent descriptor used on those evenings. Being quiet enabled me to soak in all the contributions made in the class and process them thoroughly before I came to my own conclusions. I would learn by taking the time to reflect on what others said, rather than jumping in feet first and blind!

Five¬†years on since leaving secondary school, I’d like to think¬†that my reflective approach has made me a more intelligent person on two levels: the analytical level, and the emotional level. In both my work and my life I take the time to reflect on the challenges at hand. This way I have learnt more about myself and the world around me.

Now, I feel that it is time to share my reflections with other people. This is partly so you can get to know me better. Nevertheless, there is an ulterior motive. I also want to learn from you through your responses and feedback, whilst encouraging people to be more reflective in their own lives. As a consequence, Expressed Perspective is an open platform, so please get in touch if you want to contribute. I will be posting my interpretations of various works, from film, to song, to stories of the Bible, in the hope that we might start a conversation on different topics we can all learn from.