Category Archives: Culture

Father Christmas, Noel Baba

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It is that time of the year again in many parts of the world where the festive season of Christmas is celebrated.

Last year I spent many weeks in the RIXOS Premium Hotel Belek in Antalya, Southern Turkey over the Christmas and New Year period, and on Xmas Day I was honoured to be Father Christmas, or Noel Baba, for the guests at a special festive meal.
Previous years I have been taking my share of being Father Christmas for the Rotary Club of Kingston upon Thames at the Christmas Tree outside Bentall’s Shopping Centre, and this year has been the same.
It is such a privilege to be the Father Christmas for the young children as they are taken shopping with their parents.
Phillip Holt as Santa with the Rotary Club of Kingston upon Thames Phillip Holt as Father Christmas with the Rotary Club of Kingston upon Thames
The look in the children’s eyes as they see me, wonderment, they wave back as I wave at them, and when they come-up to Santa, and I engage them in a little conversation, memories food back to me of the time when I believed in Father Christmas.
I ask them what they want me to leave them on Christmas day, and it could be a scooter, a doll, a bicycle, and I wonder if their parents have brought their desires.
I always finish-off by asking them if they will leave me a minced pie and a carrot for Rudolph as we will be very hungry, and the children often add “and a glass of milk“. I always get a big “yes“.
We always offer the children a sweet from a little box in exchange for a donation that the children puts in our collecting bucket, the proceeds of which go to support local charities and services in the Royal Borough of Kingston.
The motto of the Rotary Club is Service above Self, and surely being Santa to the children is not a service but an honour.

It is good to get home

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I love my work, teaching participants, passing on information, giving people confidence, improving self-esteem, what ever, but it is always great to be home.

As Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz would say, “There’s no place like home.
After a week in Istanbul giving a Society of NLP Practitioner course, a delayed flight, I could set about washing my shirts, answering my mail and telephone messages, collect my new reading glasses, and enjoying a walk into my home town centre.
When I arrived in the market square of Kingston upon Thames, I was surprised to find the Christmas Market had arrived with all the stalls selling seasonal fare, food, gifts, sweets, and drinks. The familiar smell of mulled wine entered my senses, a typical Christmas drink, red wine with added spices and served warm.
My senses came alive, as this is a special time in the UK culture, a season of good will, of being with friends and family. The trouble is my work takes me away from friends and family, but the deep memories from years gone by warmed me as much as the mulled wine.
The Christmas Market in Kingston upon Thames
The Christmas Market in Kingston upon Thames

A Grebe Takes a Meal

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I love observing the world around me, finding the little things that people normally miss, and when I find the unusual, I need to know what is gaining on, what is the history, what makes it work, but sometimes I just like to observe and enjoy the time.

A grebe on the River Thames, Kingston Upon Thames
A grebe on the River Thames, Kingston Upon Thames
Walking recently by the River Thames I noticed the bird called the grebe swimming low in the water, and diving down for what seems an age, to resurface a long way away from where it entered.
It was the first time that I saw the result of a dive, that the grebe had caught a fish. Nature can be so cruel when you think of the poor fish that was just swimming about just a few seconds before, but life on earth is like this, a tree or plant will take nutrients from the soil, perhaps depriving another plant or tree which will then die. A lion will kill an antelope to feed to live. A bird will eat a caterpillar so we will never see a beautiful butterfly, and then perhaps the bird will be eaten by another animal.

A grebe on the River Thames, Kingston Upon Thames, eating a fish.
A grebe on the River Thames, Kingston Upon Thames, eating a fish.

It is a dog eats dog world.
Even in business, cultural or beliefs systems, in living or existing as we have seen in recent months say in Libya, it is the same, it is dog eat dog or the survival of the fittest.
Life can be Poo Poo seen from one perspective, or beautiful and productive if seen from another.

Squirrelling Around

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It is a bright summers day in the UK, warm and relaxing, and it is in this mood that I take a walk and come across a squirrel, like me, enjoying the sunshine.

British Grey Squirrel photo by Phillip Holt NLPNOW
British Grey Squirrel
The grey squirrel has been introduced into the UK. It is a small to medium sized rodent of the family Sciuidae, being indigenous to Africa, the Americas and Eurasia.
British Grey Squirrel photo by Phillip Holt NLPNOW
British Grey Squirrel
The native British red squirrel has been in decline in recent years, as the grey squirrel has taken over their habitat, and the red has become a protected animal, now only found in small pockets or in Scotland. In fact I have not seen a red squirrel for many years.
As I walk around my local town of Kingston upon Thames and other towns in and about London, I wonder if the indigenous British are going the same way as the red squirrel, as it seems that it is becoming rare to hear English being spoken, or to be served in a restaurant, pub or shop by a British person.
With the open borders of the European Union (EU), where citizens have the right to work and live in any member state, the UK’s population is changing rapidly. Not only do EU citizens seek to live and work in the UK, but also other countries citizens seem to flock to the UK shores, often outstaying their visa’s, or entering illegally.
The British are becoming an endangered species, as they are being pushed out into little pockets of the UK, as the incomers takeover their homes, work, food and social support.

Lunchtime for some

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One of the benefits of all the travel I do and the countries I visit is to be able when time permits different places of interest. Taking my camera with me, helps me share and tell a story of my experiences.

On my visit to Malaysia, I was able to visit the Botanical Gardens on the Island of Penang, which was hosting a flower festival, a chance to see more of the tropical plants in a compact area. Certainly not on the scale of the UK’s Hampton Court Flower Show, it did have many companies selling their plants, and lovely plants and flowers they were.
But lunch soon called, but with little choice of eating establishments in the Botanic Gardens, I had to make do with some fried rice, and coconut juice straight from the coconut fruit.
Then I noticed I was not the only one having lunch, the monkeys were having theirs too.
Visitors walking through the gardens eating a sandwich, drinking some water from a bottle, would marvel at the packs of monkeys so close, playing on the grass, sitting in the trees or on top of lamp posts, but they would be in for a surprise, the monkeys have learned that where there are humans there will be food for the taking, and take they do. The monkeys run up to the unsuspecting visitor, who may have the food in a plastic bag, and grab the bag and food and run off into trees, leaving the shocked visitor shouting after them and to go hungry.
The monkeys have learned how to take the tops off bottles to get at the contents, how to remove the tops of litter bins to recover unwanted food.
Wild monkeys searching for lunch in the Botanic Gardens, Penang, Malaysia  Wild monkeys searching for lunch in the Botanic Gardens, Penang, Malaysia
Wild monkeys searching for lunch in the Botanic Gardens, Penang, Malaysia
The monkeys may be small and cute, but to have one running after you to get at your food is quite and experience.

I don’t believe it – continued

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It must be my age. I’m 95, and I am using the phrase “I don’t believe it” more and more.

As I go through my fantastically rich life, visiting so many countries, experiencing so many cultures, beliefs and foods, that little voice in my head is often heard to shout “I don’t believe it“, how could they drive like that on the wrong side of the road? (I am British, and we drive on the correct side). How can they believe this or that to be true, and how could they eat that stuff? (See my blog Horseshoe Crab).
I was brought-up in a British society, with its’ beliefs and customs, and they are deep seated, down in my unconscious, directing me through my daily tour of life. These customs and beliefs become our standards which we live by, the rules which we use which say what is right and wrong, and they are so deep in my psyche, that after arriving back in London’s Heathrow Airport from a trip abroad, and I stand at the bus stop to catch the X26 bus back home, non native British people arrive after me and stand at the front of the queue, getting on the bus before me.
Have these people no sense of what a queue is for?
First to arrive has the right to be first on the bus.
Why don’t they form an orderly queue?
Where are their manners?
I just don’t believe these people. They have no remorse. They don’t say sorry or excuse me. They are in their own little cocooned world where everything is for the taking, for them and only them.
I am driving in a foreign country, and I see someone wanting to cross the road, so I slow down and indicate them to cross, and do I get a thank you? No.
Where are their manners?
Other drivers do anything they can to get that one car infront. They push they shove, they cut others up, they sit up the exhaust pipe trying to push the other person or intimidate them.
Where is their sense of community?
Eating abroad brings its’ problems for me. Certain food tastes are so abhorrent (horrible) to me they make me physically ill. Seeing a whole fish with its’ white eyes staring at me and its’ mouth wide open turns my stomach.
Whole fish looking at me in a Malaysian restaurant
Whole fish looking at me in a Malaysian restaurant (top right)
How can people eat such food? And, rice with everything, where’s my potatoes?
The older I get, the more entrenched I get my old beliefs, and that little voice in my head says, “I don’t believe it“.
There is a fantastic British comedy series shown on the BBC called One Foot in the Grave, which ran between 1990 and 2000.
The series looks at the life and exploits of Victor Meldrew (Richard Wilson) as he faces life after an early retirement and he tries to battle against modern life.
Victor tries to keep himself busy but he is beset with misfortunes and misunderstandings, his next-door neighbour is always finding him in compromising situations leading him to think that Victor is insane. Victor’s wife, Margret (Annette Crosbie) is the long suffering part of the partnership, never giving up on Victor.
Victor’s catch phrase in the series is “I don’t believe it“, and as I mature with every year and encounter new situations, I am getting more like Victor Meldrew day by day.
I just don’t believe how I can be so stupid, must be my age.
Watch a small video of One Foot in the Grave (click)

Adult Achievement Awards, Kingston upon Thames 2011

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Sometimes it is good to stand back and look at other people and what they have achieved.

On a nice Tuesday evening in May 2011, I was able to attend the Royal Borough of Kingston’s Adult Achievement Award ceremony held in the Guildhall Kingston.
Organised by Peter Gray of the Rotary Club of Kingston upon Thames, in conjunction with Kingston Borough Adult Education Service and Kingston College, the Deputy Mayor Councillor Geoff Austin and the Mayoress Mrs Sheila Austin along with Rotary Club President Peter Bassett honoured twenty people who had achieved so much whilst learning.
I felt very humbled as I listened to stories of how others had overcome issues, problems and hurdles to better themselves, their family and others.
All those who attended thoroughly enjoyed the evening, meeting and talking to the students from the education centres of Kingston. The superb setting of the Guildhall of Kingston and the presence and talk by the Deputy Mayor made us most welcome.
This little video shows these people receiving their certificates.
click to see video

Course cancelled

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Here I am sitting in Malaysia, preparing for my next course, The Society of NLP Master Practitioner, to be held in Istanbul starting 14th May 2011, flights arranged, plans made.

Then I get an email, the organisers have cancelled the course.
I had been asked by other people to work with them, to give other course in other countries, I had been asked to meet with people, I had made arrangements to attend meetings, all based on the course happening in Istanbul. Now, all my arrangements are in disarray.
What can I do?
Nothing, but get on with my life, and try and stop the hacker/s that have violated my Skype accounts, using my credits to call Nigeria and the USA, and thank you Skype who do nothing about it. To stop the hacker/s getting into my other accounts. And Apple say that their computers do not get viruses and trojans?
Oh Poo Poo, I have to put a smile on my face, at least I woke-up this morning for the Muslim early morning call for prayers, (just after 5am) with the loudspeaker pointing to my bedroom from about a mile away, but it is so loud, it is as if the person is standing over my bed, and he is still going on at 6:20am preaching to those believers who are still asleep, at least I am awake and alive, even if I cannot understand the Malay language he is rabbiting on in.
At least I am alive, to go and try and change my flights, contact people to make other arrangements due to the cancelled course.
Anyone want an out of work trainer or presenter? 

A cup too big

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Why do I subject myself to too much chocolate?

Working with my client here in Shanghai, we decided to go to a very Chinese coffee shop (not) Costa, and I had the largest hot chocolate drink I have had for a long time.
Too much, it up-set my stomach.
Too much hot chocolate at
Costa Shanghai
Silly boy.

A visit to Shanghai, China

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I have been traveling since the end of November 2010, and I am not scheduled to finish until the end of April 2011, being in Italy three times, Turkey twice, Libya getting out just before the troubles, and now I find myself in Shanghai China.

I love my job, training so many people, with them having so many different cultures, beliefs and cultures, although at times it can be frustrating.

One of the great experiences one can have is the wide range of food available and the different styles of cooking.

Here in Shanghai, the restaurant Gintei Teppanyaki Sushi for example, bananas coated in what seemed to be coconut, was subjected to being cooked in front of us Japanese style, with various unknown ingredients being applied. The best part was when the cook added some spirit and set fire to the bananas. Lovely.