The Churchill's what did I learn?

It's important to remember that you learn things every day. Some things change your life, some things change how you think, feel and perform AND some things you learn are just useless bits of information that you didn't know before.
I was lucky to learn some life-changing things, some things that changed how I think and feel and a smattering of useless information along the way.

The big picture, philosophical stuff I used as the basis for the report I wrote for the Churchill Trust and so I won't share that with you here, (but if you would like a copy, feel free to flick me an email). NO, I'm going to share the kookie, surprising and useless information I learned, and maybe for one of you it could be life changing! So here we go.

- How to make Fried Green Tomatoes that make a "crunch" when you bit into them
- That in America they make the biggest "small" pizza's I've ever seen!
- That I make better Irish stew than I ate in Ireland (despite my kids referring to it as 'depression" food)
- That taxi drivers in London are a friendly bunch of chaps
- That the top graduation present for young women in Florida is not a new car, a watch or a gold pen, but............ "butt implants"...........yes, great chunks of silicone being implanted into their bottoms to make them BIGGER (this will never take off in Australia, we're too hung up about our bottoms being big as it is!)
- That racing pigeons are a resilient bunch of birds
- That people who were born in England get cross when you call them "British" not "English"
- That you could make a fortune in Dublin if you were an orthopaedic surgeon. (I must say this is an assumption based on the fact that I saw hundreds of people using walking sticks/crutches etc. who looked like they needed hip replacements)
- That I don't have a good understanding of what "zen" REALLY means!
- That there is something different about a baguette made in Paris
- That toilets really DO flush anti-clockwise on the other side of the equator
- That when you're away for a long time, you start saying "gidday" to people just so you can hear yourself say it!
- That you can get a suntan in Ireland even when the wind is so strong it could blow you to Tasmania!
- That I have caught the same disease as Elaine from exclamation mark affliction!!!!!!!Just can't stop using them!!
- That when I haven't had a haircut for nearly three months I start to look like '70 keyboard aficionado, Rick Wakeman
- That blogging is cathartic and helps you remember the little things you would otherwise forget..........oh and it's much quicker than longhand.

and finally, as Dorothy once said, "There's no place like home"

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Everybody's talking about Michael

Michael Jackson is dead, Prince needs two hip replacements..........where does that leave me????? It's so strange how the death of someone famous polarises opinions. Michael Jackson's tragic death has had an astonishing impact on the world at large but I don't know quite HOW I feel! Like everyone else, I grew up with Jackson's signature "OOH HOO" blaring from the radio. I watched the launch of the "Thriller" film video and was astounded at that now much replicated dance sequence. But my first brush with Michael was when I was a student, living in a terrace house in Richmond with my friend Maureen and we would watch him singing "Blame it on the Boogie" on our crappy black and white T.V (we were students after all, we couldn't afford colour). I remember us both thinking how gorgeous he was in his dinner suit with his 'fro' and that ENORMOUS '80's bow tie, but then something happened.......he started to change.

By the time I watched him on telly with my own kids (little though they were they loved him too) he looked like a different person and it wasn't just his visual appearance, it was his whole persona. I must say I "went off" Michael just after the "Dangerous" album and felt far more excited by Prince, Bjork and others who were pushing the boundaries of "pop" by incorporating rap, jazz, coral and classical influences into their music. I guess I actually "went off" pop music per se, not that I'd ever really been someone who was into "Top 40's" music, but Michael had always been different.

So, by the time Michael died on June 25th, I rarely thought about him. All of the courtcases, the financial stories, the weird outbursts, the masked children etc. had drifted by me virtually unnoticed, I no longer had an "investment" in him. With this in mind, I was interested to observe my reaction to his death. Like most of the world, at first I couldn't believe it, I thought it was a hoax. Then, once confirmed, I like the rest of the world spent every waking hour for the next week watching Michael Jackson "tributes" on the telly, abusing the hosts for interrupting the music clips with their inane babble. I felt sad for his family and somewhat guilty for opinions I had expressed about him in latter years. I watched with interest the media "circus", the distraught fans, the impersonators and the community response to his death. I wondered at the outpouring of intense grief from people who had never known him personally, of kids who weren't even born when "Thriller" was released and it reinforced to me the whole concept of "centrality", of how we often associate a person with significant times in our lives.

For me Michael Jackson provided the soundtrack to my youth and therefore his death is a reinforcement to me that "those days are gone". I will never be able to recapture the excitement, the adrenaline, the anxiety, the angst of those years when I was evolving from a teenager to an adult and I guess Michael was one of the links that took me instantly back to the sights, sounds, tastes and feelings of those days. In a way his death represents the death of THAT PART of my life and therefore I am entitled to grieve for that loss. And this is what I've been witnessing on a global scale. Even for those who have never liked Michael's music, he was such a huge figure on the international stage, that there would be few people in the world who do not know of him and therefore it is likely that he represents to all of those people similar aspects of themselves as he has to me.

So Michael has died, as has my youth, however I realised the other day, I wasn't "grieving" in a personal sense. Yes, it's sad that he has died, but I felt more sad for him when he was alive, to be truthful. As far as the death of my youth, well there are just as many joys in the growing wisdom that (supposedly) comes with age, as there are joys in youth, or I think there is, but then unlike poor Prince, I don't need a hip replacement, so maybe I'm not qualified to comment yet. Maybe I'm just not old enough to have an opinion on ageing..........YET!

If Michael leaves an enduring legacy (apart from his catalogue of music) I hope that his death has required parents to talk to their kids about death and explain to them that death is a part of life and that it's OK to grieve for someone who you considered central to your life.........even if you have never met them.

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