Category Archives: Culture


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This is a special time of the year to many peoples though-out the world, Christmas.

So to all my followers, may I wish you Merry Xmas.
It is a time of faith for many, others a time of giving, a time for the family to come together.
This year I fine myself by myself in southern Turkey giving training. But I am not alone, as I am with many people who it feels have become my family for a small time of my life, but will remain firmly as my future life.
This time last year, I had been on occasions Father Christmas or Santa Claus in my home town of Kingston upon Thames in the UK for a number of weeks, collecting for charity under the Christmas Tree of the town center. This year I have not been able to participate in this annual event, and I have missed the build-up, the atmosphere created by the experience, the shops being decked out with Christmas gifts, the streets being lit by magical lights, and the Xmas cards dropping through the letter box. It is not part of the Turkish culture as with other countries.
But, tonight, the hotel (the RIXOS Premium Belek, in Antalya ) I am staying in over the festive season is providing a special Festive Season Meal for all the foreign guests and their children, and I am honoured to be invited to be asked to be Father Christmas to deliver presents to the children.
This will make my day, it will now be Christmas for me, as I will see and experience the wonderment on the faces of the young children as they meet Santa Claus, children coming from many different countries of the world, Germany, Russia etc.
Christmas is for families and children around the world whatever belief, race, colour or creed.
Merry Xmas to you all.
Phillip Holt as Santa Claus, at the RIXOS Premium Belek Antalya
Phillip Holt as Santa Claus
at the
RIXOS Premium Belek Antalya

Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink

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In Malcolm Gladwell’s second book, Blink, he looks at how first impressions, that within two seconds, our mind has been influenced, as Gladwell says “kind of thinking that happens in a blink of an eye“.

The book investigates what is going on inside our heads when we engage in rapid cognition, in the two seconds, and how we should perhaps go with our intuition, which is often proven to be the correct decision, it is only when our subjective, reasoning mind, comes into play, that we get things wrong.

As always, Gladwell gives examples to explain in an entertaining and informative way, for example in a hospital emergency ward, medical staff are trained to look for less information, in NLP terms to stop “chunking down“, for patients suffering with chest pains to hone in on just the few critical pieces of information, blood pressure and the ECG, ignoring everything else, like the patient’s age and weight and medical history, resulting in a quicker diagnosis.

He writes about how a fire office’s intuition told him that the firefighters under his control were in a dangerous situation, and ordered them to withdraw, only to find that the building they were in collapsed. How did the fire officer know to issue the order to withdraw? By intuition, which can take many years to instill into the cognitive behaviour, to become implicit, automatic, so that we can react in the blink of the eye.

For people who are PhotoReading, why we should take the first idea or concept that comes into our mind when activating the book.

Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point

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In Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point, one of his four great books, he explains how ideas, products, behaviours suddenly become the way people think and do things, the items that become desirable, become the behaviours of society, spreading through a population like an epidemic.

He tells us how beliefs can change quickly, how one person can have more influence on change than another, giving specific examples to substantiate his ideas, for instance how Paul Revere got the American colonists around 1773 to become organised against the British, how the Airwalk footwear became fashion, how crime waves were reduced in New York City.

He explains that in any situation or market there will be four major influences.

There will be the “Market Mavens“, people who passes vital information to others about their knowledge, perhaps about good prices, good deals.

There will be “Connectors“, people who know people who know people. There is a theory, often called “the six degrees of separation“, that says it only needs a chain of six people to get information from person A to person B, from yourself for example to the Queen of England.

The “Stickiness” factor, how a message or information will stay in the mind, say like a slogan, and advertisement, how something will become an “anchor” in NLP terms

The forth is “Context“, how ideas or products rely on the time and place change takes place, and the conditions and circumstances when they occur.

Using examples though-out, this book is easy to follow, a must for those in marketing and places of influence, and a must for those of us who are manipulated by others, by governments, by media, radio, TV and newspapers.

The book will open your eyes.

Math or Maths

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There are times when my brain wants to explode, wanting to shout out “that’s the wrong word“, when my body justs goes into spasms when a wrong word is spoken.

One word that I am continually hearing in the last few days is “MATH“, and it is getting me mad.

The word “Math” is a shortened version of the word “mathematics“.
In the web site Wikipedia there is an explanation of the word “mathematics” as being :- 

    “…the study of quantity, structure, space, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns, formulate new conjectures, 
    and establish truth by rigorous deduction from appropriately chosen axioms and definitions.

which leaves me confused, as “maths” left me confused at school.

But that is not what I am writing about. My confusion about how mathematics (notice the “s”) work has been solved, has gone away, because over time, although I am not a mathematician, I now understand how numbers work, how to apply a mathematical formula (one) to work out a problem, how statistics are relevant to me, to calculate how much change I should have after paying a restaurant bill, or to calculate the value of the British Pound to the Turkish Lira, the Euro, or the Malaysian Ringit, and I learned this ability by applying “Maths” to real situations to problems I encountered as I work and travel through life.

What I am writing about is the use of the abbreviation of “mathematics“.

Mathematics” has an “S” on the end of the word, which in the English language infers that it is plural, more than one.

If you had “an orange”  in your hand you would have one orange in your hand, if you had “oranges” in your hand you would have more than one orange in your hand.

So when the word “Mathematics” is abbreviated, why drop the “S“, making the abbreviation “Math“? It should be “Maths“.

If a student is going to class, are they studying one calculation or many calculations? Are they studying “Mathematic” or “Mathematics“?

Yes I am British, and I speak British English, we say “Maths“, and it is the Americans that say “Math” which is American English.

I am on a mission, that when ever I travel abroad and give training, I have to teach my translators real English, British English, the pronunciation, the correct sounds.

Sorry my American readers, but the different pronunciations and usages of words to me is like having a slice of dried bread or a piece of chocolate cake.

Train Spotting – Malaysia

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For my train spotting follows, here are a few pictures of the main West Coast line in Malaysia, taken at the Bukit Mertajam station.

The heavy rail system mostly carries freight and runs on narrow gauge tracks, that is track of 1,000 mm or 3 ft 3+38 in, compared to standard gauge tracks of 1,435 mm or 4 ft 8+12 in.

Malaysian Freight Engine in Bukit Mertajam station. Narrow gauge track

Being much narrower, the trains seems ready to topple over at any time to me.

Malaysian Freight Train TG Piandang 26112, Bukit Mertajam

The Malaysian Peninsular railway also links into the Thai State Rail System, a wonderful journey I took in the 1980’s from Bangkok down into Malaysia, over twenty-four hours, with wonderful views of paddy fields, temples, tropical scenes to dream about, all undertaken at a very slow speed.

At the moment there is mostly a single track laid, but this is in the process of being upgraded to a dual track arrangement.

Tom and Jerry Fish Bones

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It had been a long morning, a drive across Penang, Malaysia, to the Mount Miriam Cancer Hospital to pick-up my sister-in-law half way through her chemotherapy treatment, to bring her home in Bukit Mertajam, and it was long past lunch time.

We stopped at a local “hawker” restaurant, where the food is cooked before your very eyes, and is so cheap, and in the right frame of mind, people undergoing chemotherapy do not loose their appetite, as my sister-in-law added a fish to her chosen food.

Within minutes it was as if the cartoon characters, Tom and Jerry had been at the table, because there in the center, laying on a plate, was all that remained of that fish.

Tom and Jerry fishbones after a meal in Malaysia

Getting the festive spirit

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For a number of years now, I have been providing training in many countries around the world, where there are different cultures, beliefs, and religions.

Being born a Christian, the Muslim country of Saudi Arabia was an especially interesting experience, which taught me to be tolerant to other peoples beliefs, as in the 1980’s when I spent over five years in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
In the Kingdom, any religion other than Islam was not tolerated, and any non Muslim holiday was banned along with any trappings that went with that “festival”. Thus Christmas cards were never seen on shop shelves, no Christmas trees or pictures of Father Christmas could be seen, and certainly I was not allowed a day off on 25th December, Christmas Day, to celebrate, although I did sneak off at lunchtime I remember, to go and join others sitting on the beach to enjoy Christmas dinner.

So it has been for a number of years since the 1980’s. I have found myself in non Christian countries during the month of December.

For my non British readers I better explain.

The holiday period of Christmas held every year in December, is in the UK the most important holiday of the year. It is a time when families and friends get together for love and friendship, not withstanding the religious aspects, but as this period is celebrated by many non Christians I will leave this aspect out.

Gifts are exchanged on Christmas Day, and of course, children go to bed on Christmas Eve (24th) knowing that during the night Father Christmas visit every child, coming down the chimney to deliver and leave their presents.  

The two main days of Christmas are the 25th December, Christmas Day, and 26th December being Boxing Day.

Boxing Day, also known as St. Stephen’s Day, is believed to have got its’ name by the practice of the upper classes who had exchanged their gifts on Christmas day (25th), allowing the lower classes or servants to have the next day off (26th), and giving and distributing gifts of money, clothes, food to those less fortunate often in boxes for easy transportation.

In the UK, nothing moves on Christmas Day except those people traveling to visit friends and families. Schools, offices and factories are closed. No buses run, no trains race up and down the railway tracks, often the last train to leave is at 10pm on Christmas Eve. No shops are open, no theaters or cinemas open their doors. No restaurants serve food. It is a special day where everything is closed.

Boxing Day is nearly as bad, as the country slowly awakens, some buses and trains run, but on a limited timetable. Some shops open to start the Sales of heavily marked down priced goods. Very few restaurants open as everybody has over eaten the day before and have loads of turkey meat and Christmas pudding left over to eat.

This festive period is started over a month before Christmas Day, with shops selling all the paraphernalia that goes with Christmas, the cards we send to each other, the decorations we put up in our homes and in the streets, the gifts we exchange (often unwanted), the seasonal food we only buy for that period, and the children becoming excited at the prospect of Father Christmas visiting.

Christmas lights in Kingston upon Thames late at night

The spirit of Christmas is built up day by day, and people get more and more excited, being conditioned to expect and want the special festive season.

But for me, working in countries during the month of December,  where Christmas does not exist in their culture or belief system, I miss this build up, this conditioning, and as I have got older the festive season has lost its allure, I have not entered into the spirit of the season.

This year, due to the postponement of courses I had been asked to give, I find myself in the UK, and I am beginning to enter into the spirit of the season, and perhaps if you indulge me, I will report on some of my up and coming experiences.

See other articles:-    Being Santa Claus in Kingston upon Thames 
                                      Santa joins the SHH (Special half Hour) Club

Train Spotting, today

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I must admit, when non British participants on my courses around the world laugh at the hobby of Train Spotting, as they can not understand why the British, and Germans and French, do it, or what joy they have from the hobby, I have often thought “why do todays train spotters do the hobby?“.

Catching the train into London’s Waterloo station in Central London on a fairly regular basis, we pass through the railway station of Clapham Junction, Britain’s and possibly Europe’s busiest station for train movements, with over 100 trains passing through per hour.

A Train Spotter at Clapham Junction

Whilst relaxing on the journey through Clapham Junction, I have often spotted Train Spotters standing on the platforms, photographing and noting down the details of the trains as they pass by. So, I decided to stop and talk to one and ask what do they get these days as against when I did it in my younger days.

I met John on another platform, who had traveled a considerable distance to spend the day in Clapham Junction, and he told me his story.

Having retired some years ago, he and his wife needed to take up a hobby to keep them occupied. His wife a keen photographer suggested they combined their two hobbies so they could travel and be with each other. Unfortunately his wife died, but John’s interest in trains had been reawakened, and now he travels the country Train Spotting.

John said that every Thursday he travels to Doncaster, another major British railway station, to pursue his hobby of Train Spotting, and there could be up to one hundred others there.

As I talked to John about what he gains from the hobby, I began to understand that each train which before today looked the same to me, had its’ own life, where it was made, how long it had been in service, what modifications had been made, what was the power of the motors, how many passengers would it sit and hold, where was its’ home base.

As I listened, I was taken in by John’s enthusiasm and knowledge. He told me why certain trains were built in the way they were, that nearly every train now new to Britain was built in other countries, Canada, Japan, Italy.

On my way home I visited a newsagent selling magazines, and in the hobby section, there seem to be more magazines for train enthusiasts than any other hobby, so there must be a demand for the information.

Come on the rest of the world,  join us British and take-up the Train Spotting hobby. We are not that strange are we?

Train Spotter John at Clapham Junction.

Train Spotting, a very British hobby

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Whilst undertaking exercises in the NLP Practitioner and Master Practitioner courses in the many countries I go to, I ask participants to recall perhaps their hobbies, and as an example I will mention the British hobby of Train Spotting.

In non UK country courses, Italy, Turkey etc, the participants look at me in a very strange way. Train Spotting? Am I deluded? Am I mad?

As a boy, yes many years ago, I remember riding long distances on my bicycle with my friends, to stand by the mainline rail track from Manchester and Scotland to London, the Trent Valley Line, to collect train numbers and  and train names. Those were the days of steam trains.

Each train would have its’ own characteristics, but be a member of a “class” or type of engine, and each train would have its’ own individual number and most likely a name.

Depending upon the use of the engine, hauling passenger carriages or goods trucks, the speed required, and the distance to be covered, so the “class” of train would change.

The configuration of the wheels of the engine would also distinguish the type of engine. There are two types of wheels on a steam engine, non powered wheels often small wheels called pilot wheels, and larger powered wheels or driving wheels.


In the first animation above there are four small pilot wheels at the front, six driving wheels, and two pilot wheels, (coloured red), making it a class 4-6-2. The second has four small pilot and six driving wheels and no rear pilot, making it a 4-6-0 class engine.

Each class of train could also be given a name, the last steam locomotive built by British Railways the Evening Star class was a 2-10-0 type. The Britannia class was a 4-6-2 as was the Clan class.

Full details including photographs of the classes of trains would be listed in a small book in the I-Spy series, a must to have for a boy train spotter like me, which could be crossed matched with my hand written notes of spotted trains, when and where I saw them.

Oh power they had, and the wonderful smell of the steam locomotive, the mixture of coal smoke, steam and oil. I used to love to stand on a bridge to be enveloped by the steam as the train passed beneath.

Those were the days.

Happy Rebublic Day Turkey, Cumhuriyet Bayramınız Kutlu Olsun

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Today, 29th October, is Republic Day in Turkey, and is celebrated with half a day holiday yesterday and a full day today.

Flags will be everywhere, as the Turkish people show with pride their support and allegiance (Turkey, a proud people. ) to their country and founder Ataturk. (click to read about Mustafa Kemal Ataturk ).

At mid day yesterday, guns were fired from Gaziantep’s castle, signaling the start of celebrations, sending the population of pigeon’s of the whole of Gaziantep into the sky.

Gaziantep Castle

Gaziantep Castle

Gaziantep’s castle over the rooftops.

Happy Republic Day Turkey whoever you are and may be.

Her kimseniz ve her neredeyseniz…:”Cumhuriyet Bayramınız Kutlu Olsun!”