Tuesday, 31 October 2017

How to Have a Better Brain.

A couple of months ago I wrote about a series of short programmes on BBC Radio 4 called Busyness and Resting. Last week there was another series entitled "How to Have a Better Brain". These are repeats from 2015 so you may already have listened to them.

Sian Williams, probably best known as a presenter on BBC Breakfast, introduces the programmes. At the time of the initial broadcast she was studying for an MSc in Psychology.

The series is based around neuropsychologist Dr Catherine Loveday and her mother, Scilla, a former Consultant Psychiatrist who has been diagnosed with Accelerated Memory Loss (AML). The daughter has been looking into AML and identified a range of exercises and lifestyle changes that may help Scilla avoid, or at least delay, some of the symptoms of the condition.

The five programmes cover Exercise, Relaxation, Stimulation, Sleep and Diet; all areas that we are familiar with. So, whilst they are essentially targeting a condition linked to Epilepsy, Brain Injury and Age each episode discusses the science behind the different theories and much of it could equally apply to someone suffering from Depression.

As an example, we all know about the idea of planning for the next day before we go to bed but research suggests that thoughts we have at that time have a better chance of sticking. The same applies to writing a "gratitude journal" or similar. Other issues covered include the benefit of thinking about things whilst moving around, or out in the open air rather than sitting down indoors.

All, or at least a lot, of this we have heard about before but the occasional reminder can be useful and I find it helps if you understand that there is science behind much of it. This may encourage you to give something a go that otherwise you might have dismissed.

The programmes are available until mid November on BBC iPlayer Radio and only last just over an hour in total. Not a long time to spend if you find something that helps.

A Moodscope member.

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Monday, 30 October 2017

The Straw that Saved the Camel's Back.

I have a dodgy back! From time to time, it tends to 'go', leading to up to three weeks of painful disability. I'm sure it can be fixed, but my point this morning is that I have a warning that it may be about to happen. There are twinges!

If I listen to these twinges, I can escape the penalty.

I meet many people who are on the edge of something about to 'go'. They are carrying a mindset prone to suffering. Just one more thing could be enough to set them off down a pathway of pain that will remain for a while.

Interrupting the Pattern with Kindness.

What if we could help change the next pathway they take?

A simple word of kindness can often become the straw that saved the Camel's back.

An unexpected word of kindness from you or me can often set somebody's day aright.

So here's today's challenge - to find a genuine word of kindness to apply to everyone you meet.

• A 'thank you' to the postman
• A compliment to your colleague who's taken extra care in their choice of dress
• A word of appreciation to your thoughtful neighbour
• An enthusiastic recognition of that distant friend across the park backed up with how pleased you are to see them... combined with a cheerful 'Good day!' to everyone you meet
and the king of all word-based kindnesses,
• The kindness-filled card sent to someone when it is neither their birthday, nor a special occasion.

The best thing about spreading this loving-kindness is that you too will remove straws from your own back, meaning that you may also avoid your 'back' (whatever that means for you) going out.

Bear one another burdens and so fulfil the law of love.

A Moodscope member.

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Sunday, 29 October 2017

I'm here for you.

I know words won't take away your pain.
But I'm here for you.

When you feel like no one cares, I do.
I'm here for you.

When others judge, or criticize, or roll their eyes, I won't.
I'm here for you.

If it's 3 am and you don't want to burden anyone, call me.
I'm here for you.

If it seems so dark and the walls are closing in, I'll be your light and guide you.
I'm here for you.

If you feel like no one understands, I do. I've been there.
And I'm here for you.

When you can think of nothing good to say about yourself, I have a long list of good I see in you, right here for you.

When you can think of no reason to go on, I will be your reason.
I need to be here for you.

When you are upset for no reason, you don't need to give me a reason
to be here for you.

When you don't want advice or a lecture, and you just need someone to sit with you,
I'll sit here with you.

When you feel like you have failed, you haven't.
You were here for me.

Now I'm here for you.

I just love this poem which was published by Amie Merz, a counselor based in the US who writes a blog on healthyplace.com.

I hope you all have someone who would be there if you needed them. And if not, the Moodscope community are always here for you.

The Moodscope team.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:


Saturday, 28 October 2017

Balancing strengths and weaknesses.

When I was seven I was very clumsy and unco-ordinated so my mother decided to send me to ballet classes so I could gain some poise and confidence. I found I was surrounded by slim accomplished ballet dancers whereas chubby me had trouble accomplishing first position. I used to hide at the back of the class. I heard the ballet teacher tell my mum she would not make me do exams as it would spoil the standard of her class. My brothers teased me by saying even the elephants from the movie Fantasia had more grace than I did. My parents were simply following parenting advice of the day that is still used today, to concentrate on the child's weakness.

Recently, I heard a radio programme about positive psychology applied to parenting where a parent is encouraged to focus on extending a child's strengths and not concentrating on the weakness.

This is sometimes called Strength-based parenting, an approach where parents deliberately identify and cultivate positive states, processes and qualities in their children.

A strength-based approach to parenting focuses first on the child's strengths - their talents, positive qualities, what your child does well and their good behaviour - before attending to their faults and shortcomings.

This approach is the opposite the more typical approach to parenting that places the bulk of attention on fixing what's wrong with our kids (which brings them up to scratch) but rather highlights what's right with children (which brings out their uniqueness).

My parents like their peers were trying to fix my clumsiness and other flaws. They also praised me and loved me but there was an emphasis on correcting one's behaviour.

I suppose I tried to concentrate on my children's strengths but I also wanted to improve their weaknesses.

I am not saying one approach is right or wrong, I am interested in exploring the effects each approach has on children and parents.

Would or did having your parents concentrate on the strengths rather than fixing your flaws, helped you growing up?

Do you think trends change all the time in psychology and parenting and this is just another one?

A Moodscope member

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Friday, 27 October 2017


Boing! goes Zebedee. Do you remember it? If so you are probably English and of a certain age. Zebedee, a Zorro-like puppet, appeared regularly in the children's TV programme 'The Magic Roundabout' in the 1960s. His closing line, at the end of the show, was usually 'Time for bed'.

Bedtime is a big issue for me. For many years, I've found it hard to go to bed at a reasonable time. 'Reasonable' for me would be around 10 or 10.30, allowing me time to footle around, spend the full two minutes cleaning my teeth, read for a while, and then fall asleep some time before 11.30. That would mean I could get up at 7.30 having had eight whole hours of sleep – what luxury! And hopefully I would face the day feeling fresh and enthusiastic - perhaps even remembering some colourful dreams that had waited until my last hour of sleep to show themselves.

What happens instead? I usually find reasons to look at the computer after 9.30 – so then that turns into at least 11 pm before I am even thinking of getting to bed. By then I am hungry again, so it's time for a 'little' snack, and let's face it, it would be even nicer with a glass of wine – oh, and there happens to be a bottle open already, how convenient!  Well, now it's gone midnight, so I may as well read for a bit to calm myself down. And what do you know, it's 1 o'clock – again, another late night. Is anyone else familiar with this sequence?

During this process, if I paid close attention, I would notice the tension in me. Something is wrong. Perhaps I've been disappointed – a friend hasn't rung, or I've performed badly in some way, and am feeling down about myself. Or I've made a massive to-do list today, and have carried on with it long after I was too tired to do things effectively.

The main thing is, rather than notice my tension early on, I am unconsciously trying to blank it out by distracting myself, with the computer, the TV, or perhaps sudoku. And I'm addicted to an online form of Boggle, which can easily keep me up til 2 in the morning even though my scores are appalling (there's always the hope that I will finally get a respectable one, if I just keep trying!).

What to do about this? One thing I have noticed is that building in some 'me' time earlier in the day brings powerful benefits later the same day. I don't feel resentful or cheated of 'my' time by whatever has happened during the day. I don't feel a need to cram in some 'me' time before I go to bed, although nowadays I find that I often fit some in just naturally.

Another thing that has helped is to adopt an affirmation of "I'm looking forward to tomorrow". At first it wasn't necessarily true, but it did switch my attention to thinking ahead hopefully, rather than looking back at what didn't go well today.

Do you have problems around getting to bed? If so, please share any tips for what has helped you. I'm still building up my toolkit for this one and would love some help!

A Moodscope member. 

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:


Thursday, 26 October 2017

Smiling on the inside.

For the last few years I've been feeding my neighbour's cats when she goes on holiday. I cover mornings and another neighbour does evenings. One cat is the equivalent of Marilyn Monroe. She bats her eyelashes at me, flirts Outrageously with a capital O, and makes me feel the world stops at me! I know its cupboard love but I fall for her every single time. I leave walking on pillows of happiness! The other cat is frightened of her own shadow. Our relationship is me talking gently to her from the ground whilst she cowers at the back and on the top of a cupboard near the ceiling.

However. Today I walked out on double pillows. Frightened cat not only greeted me with a little smile but she let me in to her own self. She allowed me to clap her when I arrived, and she came when I called out for her when breakfast was ready. She didn't back off in fear when I said cheerio.

She has trusted me. It's a magnificent feeling! It has given me a boost to know I can show her I mean no harm and she has accepted that.

If you are not in a good place, and you're struggling alone, I wonder if you might consider trusting someone. It not only helps you, it can mean the world to others too.

Love from

The room above the garage
A Moodscope member.

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Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Wednesday's Child.

Monday's child is fair of face
Tuesday's child is full of grace
Wednesday's child is full of woe
Thursday's child has far to go
Friday's child is loving and giving
Saturday's child works hard for a living
But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay

Is there one thing which distinguishes all people who suffer from depression? Do we all have hairy toes? Did we all have to sit next to a person we detested in our first year of school? Were we all born on a Wednesday?

Ash, the leader of our bipolar group, says that it is usually intelligent, creative people who are afflicted with depression and bi-polar disorder. I don't know. It does seem though, that many of my creative and intelligent friends do suffer. Just a few minutes ago I was chatting with a fellow writer I knew many years ago when we both lived in the same city. Our paths have diverged but we have recently reconnected on Facebook and got back in touch. I mentioned that I write for Moodscope. Oh, he knows all about Moodscope as he too has his own large "black dog" which sits on him from time to time; panting heavily and breathing foul doggy breath into his face.

But, can we say that this is inevitably the flip side of the coin? If one is intelligent and creative, must one automatically be predisposed to depression? If one suffers from depression, does that automatically make one intelligent and creative?

And, if so – why should that be?

I don't have any answers and I should be glad of your opinion on this, so please do comment, if you have a view.

I think a lot of it may depend upon the reasons for our depression. There seems to be a link with stress, especially with teenagers at school. It is the children who put themselves under pressure to perform who suffer most. I keep an eagle eye on my fifteen-year-old, who is predicted all 7s and 8s in her GCSEs next summer (that's the old As and A*s, by the way). For her, the prospect of getting a 6 (quite respectable), would equate to ignominious failure, and she drives herself to work more than I feel is wise.

Maybe it's the people who are too hard on themselves. Do you expect perfection of yourself and despair when you fall short of your expectations?

Or the people who are in stressful environments where there is no relief and no way out? The people who suffer bullying at work or in school?

Maybe our depression is caused by a combination of internal and external factors.

It may not help us feel better, but it may help us toward a more effective treatment if we can analyse what is external and what is internal.

And I can guarantee that one of the external factors will not be that we were all born on a Wednesday!

A Moodscope member.

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Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Being Happy.

Emily Esfahani Smith, 'There is more to Life than being Happy' (Ted Talk 2017)
Viktor E Frankl, 'Man's Search for Meaning', Random House

For those of you unfamiliar with Ted Talks they are a series of video's given by expert speakers on a variety of subjects from science to business to global issues in more than 110 languages. TED started in 1984 and can be viewed on You tube or on their own web page each talk lasting between 10 and 30 minutes and I would recommend them to anyone.

Recently I watched a talk entitled "There is more to life than being Happy" given by Emily Esfahani which can be viewed here: http://bit.ly/2xr61hA

Emily identifies the rising tide of despair in modern life which she attributes not to a lack of happiness but to a lack of meaning. She then goes onto identify four pillars of a meaningful life, which are:

Storey Telling

The first three are fairly self explanatory the fourth refers to creating a narrative from the events of your life to help you understand how you became you. Emily goes on to give examples of how these four pillars can help individuals gain meaning in their lives and I would recommend you listen to the entire talk when you can.

Emily's talk reminded me of a book I recently read by the Psychiatrist Viktor E Frankl entitled "Man's Search for Meaning". Dr Frankl, who died in 1997, was a holocaust survivor who used his experiences to start his own school of psychotherapy which he called "Logotherapy". Logotherapy is a form of existential analysis based partly on Viktor's experiences in the camps and partly on Kierkegaard's "Will to meaning". As you have probably guessed it has a lot in common with Emily Esfahani's four pillars for a meaningful life.

I wont say any more about Logotherapy, you can read Viktor's book for that, although how anyone managed to find meaning in life living in Auschwitz is still beyond me, but one quote, this time from Nietzsche who ironically was Hitler's favourite philosopher, really struck home for me.

"He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how."

A thought to remember when treading those long Dark nights of the Soul.


A Moodscope member.

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Monday, 23 October 2017

Digging Out Anger from the Roots.

It's been a 'Fascinating' week – 'fascinating' in the sense used by Mr Spock on the original Star Trek. No matter how impossible the situation the crew of the Starship Enterprise was facing, the only F-word that Mr Spock would use was, "Fascinating!" People died, Spock said, "Fascinating!" Half the Enterprise ripped away by a Klingon Battlecruiser, Spock said, "Fascinating!" Aliens try to fry the brains of everyone on board, you guess it, Spock said, "Fascinating!"

'Fascinating' is a power word. It keeps you open to possibilities, to learning, and to a resourceful mindset. It's almost good enough to be the eleventh Moodscope Card!

The first week of October had been one of the best of my life. It might even have been the best. My Dad paid for an amazing place to stay in Devon, and we immersed ourselves in Nature for a week. Luxurious baths, scented candles, and a thousand Canada Geese taking off in formation, all worked their magic.

Then came last week. Nothing majorly went wrong, but a thousand little things did - one for every goose the week before. And they built up. If week 1 of October was 'light', then week 2 was 'darkness.'

The fascinating thing for me was that I felt anger building up like never before... to the point of rage. I actually got to the point where I couldn't contain it. The tipping point was well-resourced clients wilfully withholding payment so that they could pressure me to do more work for nothing. Hmm, that was motivating... not.

I exploded.

I'm a great believer that everything must be bent to serve our higher purpose. I don't believe everything happens for a purpose, nor that it all works out in the end – lost too many friends to cancer to believe that fairy-tale. But I do believe I have the mental muscle to force value out of every situation.

This belief allows me to step back from the non-sense and injustice and observe... watching for the lesson. With Spock, I said, "Fascinating!"

The lesson in last week's RAGE is that it is counterfeit. My anger is a mask. It is a mask for a deeper emotional state: fear.

I am afraid.

Anger is just one wrapping for fear.

Overeating, binge-drinking, you name it, there are a thousand wrappers available.

Thus, for me, at least, dealing with my anger is treating the symptom, not the cause.

This is where I stop and say, "Fascinating!"  And then I ask you, "How do YOU deal with fear?"

A Moodscope member.

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Sunday, 22 October 2017

The Rainbow.

Rainbows have been mentioned quite a lot recently and a while ago I mentioned that I wanted to share a poem about a rainbow – but I could not find it.  

It was handwritten by a very inspirational man (and author) called Mr Semark.

Recently, the poem appeared without me even looking (as things do).

Although I wondered if it was some sort of sign and I would like to share it with you.
He would have been delighted to know that I had.

Mr Semark was 100 years old when he handed this poem to me, in perfect handwriting and even coloured a border around it with a felt tip pen.

He was full of wisdom and interesting stories, and as for his positivity, it was so admirable, I am sure that is why he lived until he was almost 102 years old.

The Rainbow

I have a rainbow all of my own,
In which only cheerful colours are shown
I paint the colours with fondness and care,
Hoping good luck, they will bear
And if my hopes and colours fade,
I paint another rainbow of a brighter shade. 

H W Semark

A Moodscope member.

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Saturday, 21 October 2017

Nourish your mind, body and soul.

Feed yourself well, your body, your mind and your soul...let your 'plate' have enough nourishment to cope with be it a nibble or a feast, but be sure to satisfy every aspect of yourself in your daily diet. May your body have enough food to function, your intellect be fed so you are challenged and interested; your emotions be nurtured and replenished so that you can return heartfelt deeds and recognise feelings, your own and others. Your emotional health feeds into your social health, may alone time be balanced with the company of good relationships.

But most of all may your soul be nourished in ways in which you can flourish in connecting with yourself. For it is the Soul where the heart of living a wholesome life and inner peace resides. Your soul is your own friendship and acceptance with yourself. A starved soul feels lost and empty so take time to replenish and nurture it. Make the soul-soil fertile it is never too late to make those connections. There are many ways to get there, follow the route to your own heart, the choice is yours and your options are open.

Here's to your good health in every way, make peace with your soul and don't worry the rest will follow.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:


Friday, 20 October 2017

Remind me: What are the 20 Moodscope cards.

In a recent Moodscope Blog comment I mentioned that a relatively new – but now very close – friend was incredulous that my Moodscope score was only 28% that day. In fact he found it a bit strange that I needed to use Moodscope at all. Of course we all know that there are many things about us that even close friends don't know: feelings that we mostly keep hidden, even feelings that we sometimes try to keep hidden from ourselves! He still doesn't know, and I won't tell him, that my scores have been much lower in the past and that my failed suicide attempt left me disappointed at the time.

Well... that discussion with my new friend got me thinking, got me into a philosophical frame of mind. I decided to look a little more deeply into the Moodscope Test answers I was giving. I guess I thought I ought to check the "calibration" of my current scores.

First I needed to remind myself what all the Moodscope cards are – personally I rattle through the test, taking each card as it gets dealt to me and have long ago lost that birds-eye view of the whole experience.

If you too have lost that overview then here are the Moodscope cards, each with the Moodscope definition of what they mean:

Active: Feeling full of energy
Afraid: Feeling frightened about something
Alert: Being quick to notice and react
Ashamed: Feeling shame for doing something wrong or foolish
Attentive: Paying close attention
Determined: Being resolute, showing determination
Enthusiastic: Showing eagerness
Excited: Looking forward to things
Guilty: Feeling regret for doing something wrong
Hostile: Feeling unfriendly towards others
Inspired: Feeling the desire to do something
Interested: Wanting to be involved in something
Irritable: Feeling easily annoyed.
Jittery: Feeling agitated and edgy
Nervous: Feeling nervous that something unpleasant will happen
Proud: Feeling a sense of achievement
Scared: Feeling alarmed about something
Strong: Feeling able to cope with difficulties
Upset: Feeling sad and troubled about things.

There are a series of fantastic Moodscope Blogs by Lex that go through each of the cards in much more detail from his personal perspective. If you search the archives (September to November 2013) then Lex's wonderful blogs are there for you to read.

I've re-read all of Lex's blogs, done some other research and now I've finished recalibrating my Moodscope score. My score has gone up, not dramatically but it has gone up. Maybe that's because I understand the questions better now or perhaps it's because doing the research has given me focus and improved my mood! (See INSPIRED and PROUD above).

In other blogs I will giving my personal interpretation of Lex's original posts and some intriguing aspects of my recent research.

Be yourself – rate yourself in your own terms: for me at least it's the trends that matter most.

Have a great day!

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:


Thursday, 19 October 2017

Those difficult decisions.

What on earth does this picture have to do with difficult decisions? Because it comes under the list of 'Something's got to go'. A positive army is working on keeping me emotionally, mentally and physically healthy, made up of family, friends, doctors, nurses and psychiatrists. Most of my problems would be solved by money, but with my first house unsold, I am in a fix. Many people who posted to my blog 'When is a house a home' were in the invidious position of sorting out divorce – which counts with bereavement and house moving as the top stress reasons.

All three present hard and also emotional decisions. Where to live? (We are asked, if one of us dies, would the other return to UK and family? Love family, but No.) Money is paramount with divorce, the cost of re-housing mind-bending (many people now living in our area are only here because they could afford a property after divorce). And I've watched, personally, grandchildren commuting between separated parents – they all coped, and thrived, not always the case. I could write a book on watching our peer group 'down-sizing'.

They have dogs, so must stay with the garden. The dogs die, and sentimentality prevails over sense. If you have a big house, with lovely family furniture, the tug of parting with furniture can be as bad as the bereavement – so many memories. The garden's too big, you can't do it yourself, can't afford (or even find) a gardener, so you nag the family, who live 300 miles away and hate gardening anyway. My tall sons DO cut hedges – but possibly through blackmail – I will fall off the ladder or cut the flex of the hedge-cutter. (The pharmacist's son did just that).

So, back to the picture and my own particular decision making. My mother, who lived to nearly a 100, dying in 2001 (10 years after we moved to France) stayed with us a lot, attending all family gatherings, and spent 18 months with our eldest son and wife (everlastingly grateful) before moving into an excellent home. Every time I started preparations, every time, she would say 'It's a lot of work', and 'What do you want to make all the fuss for'. 'Because I like it, Mummy, and I love receiving and pleasing guests'.

So, gardening and a beautifully laid table and well-presented food are still important in my life, and I will hang on, grimly. The latest visiting son noted that the house was none too clean. He suggested that he and his brothers would club together to pay for a 'one off' professional cleaner. If they should be willing to subsidize their Mum, I will accept three days in a hotel with a swimming pool, a beach to walk along, not having to get up at 7.30 every morning, and, thus rejuvenated, I will do my own housework!

Those who are in the thick of moving, and for those for whom it is just a bad dream, what would you keep, or give up?

The Gardener
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:


Tuesday, 17 October 2017

What helps you?

In my blog "Go with the Flow Part 1" on 19th September 2017, Daisy kindly pointed me in the direction of eannegram. This isn't a blog about eannegram itself, which I have found really helpful in understanding some of my behaviours and those of my alcoholic sister.  (Nor is it another blog about my sister.)

It has reminded me that there is so much wisdom, advice and support out there – whether from websites, books, family and friends, professionals, peer groups... the list is endless! It got me revisiting the books and resources I have acquired over the years, all of which helped me at different stages and in different ways.

So, lovely Moodscopers, today I invite you to choose one thing (just one!) that helped you in the past, and maybe is currently helping you or could help you at the moment. Let's share our experience and create a list which everyone can refer to when moods dip and times are tough. Let's see how long a list we can produce... Oh, and of course Moodscope is at the top so no-one can mention it again!

I suggest we don't repeat any resource; only one per Moodscoper – though we can "reply" to another person's suggestion: it will be interesting to see if some resources are more popular than others.

Mine is Louise Hay "You can heal your life" – which taught me so much about the negative thought patterns in our minds, and the power of affirmations to turn things around.

Your turn!

A Moodscope member. 

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:


Monday, 16 October 2017

All Your Life Is A Rehearsal For Today.

It's an interesting aphorism, isn't it? What if all your life has been a rehearsal for this very day?

Isn't this the truth?

All your experience, all your emotions, all your beliefs, all the meaning you've ascribed to all the events that have happened to you, everything you've said, everything you've thought, everything you've felt – all these things will influence the choices you make today.

And those choices will influence today's 'Show'.

So, if today is 'Show Time!' and you've already showed up for it, what's the Show going to be called? What's it going to be about? What kind of genre: comedy, drama, musical, adventure, fantasy...?

And who is going to be in the Show?

Not only have you rehearsed your whole Life for today, you can also exercise creative control.

· You can influence who is in the cast; Who's 'in' and who's 'out'?

· You can influence where the Show takes place;

· You can influence what happens when;

· You can influence the pace of what happens;

· You can influence what part you'll play, what you'll say, and who you'll say it to;

· And you can influence the outcome – the ending – the finale – the result.

I say 'influence' because there are other players who have also been rehearsing for today.  They'll have their part to play too, and they'll have their say, but let's not forget who the Star is, shall we?

Time to Shine!

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:


Sunday, 15 October 2017

The cogs turn the wheel.

I may have bored you silly by now rambling on about my best friend. (The tree.) But he is a big part of my life and I like sharing his wisdom and his guidance. He is currently amber in colour. He winks when the sun tickles him and he is giving parts of himself away when the winds get close.

He is my marker. He is my spot. I look at him when I want to know where I am. If I am low on energy he reminds me to stop. And I stop with him. If I am needing to move he reminds me that my movements need just to be regular, not big. We all need a marker. A guide.   Having no partner, I need him to be my sensible head. And he is always, always there. I learned communication needs not the spoken word.

Having him as my marker has proved to be invaluable to me. And I don't really care if it's a little crazy to place my trust in a tree. It works for me. It gets me through.

Do you have a marker? A magnet to attract you, a candle in a hurricane lamp, a compass, the horizon, a written down plan, a mantra or prayer, perhaps a training schedule or a project. Something that brings you method and result. It can be a bit of a life saver.

Love from

The room above the garage
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:


Saturday, 14 October 2017

How do you handle rejection?

Kate Di Camillo winner if 3 Newberry Awards for Children's Literature received an incredible 473 rejection letters within a 6-year period before her first novel 'Because of Winn-Dixie' was published.

When Kate talks to students she uses a theme of persistence and determination. She likes to make a guessing game out of the number of times her writing was knocked back.

Children usually start at 5, then go to 10 and then think they are brave and say 50.

When Kate says no it is way more than that, the students are puzzled as to why she kept going and going only to be rejected again and again.

She explains to students that while she could not control whether she was talented she could keep on trying.

I think I would have given up probably before 100 rejection letters as my self-belief, self-esteem and self-worth would have been exhausted.

I assume that with each rejection she was spurred on to write something new or improve what she had written so the same book was not rejected 473 times. It was the tally of letters for all the writing she submitted over the years.

I find this an amazing story of determination or was it sheer stubbornness that kept her going.

I wonder if she had not been published after 473 rejections would she have gone to 500 or more. Did she have a cut-off point?

Would you have had the determination to keep going?

It can be for anything not just writing, anything you get rejected for, or are not succeeding at, would you persist no matter how long it took?

Or would you say I did my best and give up when you had given all you could?

A Moodscope member

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Friday, 13 October 2017

I am feeling lonely.

I am feeling lonely. There I've got it off my chest. I am feeling lonely and hurt and that's painful.

I knew that last week was going to be quiet as my kids were going off on holiday with their Dad, my Mum was off on holiday with a friend and my sister and family were also off up in Scotland. So as well as my day job, it was my job to keep an eye on my lovely but elderly Dad. This I did well. Curry was cooked on Wednesday night, we had a little day trip to a garden centre with a spot of lunch, a few hours I will treasure forever, and in chaos, as my cooker broke midweek, I produced Sunday dinner for him and my kids at his house despite having to grapple with a new oven which he had no idea how to work and simultaneously arbitrate a fight about felt tip pens.

Over the years I have developed a good sense of cherishing the moment and am pretty good at finding little pleasures in the small things. Indeed I am normally someone who is quite happy in my own company so this feeling of searing loneliness is a bit of a shock. At the heart of this is that two of my friends who I hold dear and have been good friends over some years have been too busy to see me and maybe are no longer as good friends as they once were or I had hoped for.

Now I know that I am patient and loyal, and I am trying to stop that cycle of negative thinking that starts with "Why me?" and if continued would, after a tirade of personal self-criticism, result in a complete character assassination of myself. I am also having to restrain myself from lashing out. I don't do it often but if I do it rarely ends well.

So I have realised that I am normally so busy I don't have time to take stock but work is quiet, people are away and so I have had plenty of time for reflection. Some of this has led to me making new plans for the Autumn, a determination to catch up with friends who maybe live further away and a pottery course booked for Fridays in Autumn. But taking stock has also led to my feeling cross and disappointed.

I hope this blog is not too self-indulgent. It has taken me years to develop the emotional intelligence to understand and name my feelings and to believe they are valid.

So this time I'm not offering platitudes or funny stories of life as a single parent, today I am asking for advice. How do you cope with rejection and what do you do when you feel lonely?

As for me, I will hunker down to the afternoon play and let life drift slowly by until I have licked my wounds and re-discovered my "va va voom".


Brum Mum
A Moodscope member.

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Thursday, 12 October 2017

Hectic (lifestyle):

Help needed to slow down
Enthusiastic to the point of obsession/addiction
Capable of many things and clever thoughts
Time to put the plan into action
Interested in everything, but not one focus
Calming does me a power of good.

The mind works all the time we are asleep. I wake early, and try to get an extra half hour's sleep. To no avail: my brain is cranking up like the central heating boiler, and will not switch off.

Unlike the central heating boiler, I can't rush downstairs and alter the settings on the control box, switch to the "Off" button.

For some time, I review plans for the day ahead: this to do, a phone call to make, mustn't forget. But as we have guests staying, I can't pad downstairs to make a cup of tea. There is a dog in the living room, who will wake and then that will be it... owners say he doesn't settle again. So, I sip the water from the glass by my bedside, aware of my husband's peaceful breathing as he sleeps on in the marital bed, and do the acrostic above, using the first letter of my chosen word, hectic, to start a thought on the matter.

My current hectic lifestyle provides the skeleton for this simple exercise. We used to give acrostics to the pupils at school to do quite often. Today, it helps sort out some of my brain fog, and stops me going into overdrive. I have taken hold of the reins, and "held back the horses", gaining a measure of control over whirring thoughts.

What ways do you use to help your mind relax when it is too crowded?

How effective is this in relaxing you for the day ahead?

I'd be interested to know what methods others try when sleep evades them, and the mind is galloping?

A Moodscope member.

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Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Giving Comfort.

We all think we know what that means, don't we?

It's the arm slipped around your shoulders when you are hurt or grieving; the soft words of solace. It may be physical, as a warm quilt is placed around you; as you are led towards a sofa, and your hand is gently held. * Comfort is consolation in times of trouble.

Comfort is ease. In the words of an old-fashioned advertising brochure (I believe for a horse drawn carriage – which just shows how old-fashioned it is), "Four persons may travel in perfect comfort." We talk of our bed being comfortable. We speak of a comfortable relationship or a comfortable silence. In this context, we mean that the bed does not poke us in our tender places; our relationship springs no surprises; the silence does not demand words to fill the emptiness. Comfort has no awkwardness, confrontations or demands.

But if that is all we think of "Comfort", then we do it less than justice.

Now, please bear with me. Remember that I am a writer and that words are my language (ahem).

The word "comfort" used to mean far more than it does now.

If we go back to the etymology of the word, we see it is made up of the Latin "con/com" – meaning much or greatly, and "fortis", meaning to strengthen.

So, to "comfort" is better expressed as to "encourage" or "inspire".

The Bayeux Tapestry tells the story of the invasion of England by William the Conqueror. In one panel, a bishop is seen laying about a group of reluctant soldiers with the flat of his sword. The caption says: "Bishop Odo comforts the troops."  Hmmm – a strange kind of comfort we may think!

But in the bible Jesus says to his disciples (John 14:16), "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever." This is normally assumed to be the Holy Spirit, which (who) alighted upon the disciples at Pentecost, changing them from terrified, cowering individuals into a force which changed the world (for good or ill is your own view). That force is hardly one which uses soft cushions and comfy chairs!

Today I asked my friend of "longest standing" to be my comforter. I poured my heart out to her and said: "I need you to be straight with me. Am I being stupid?"

She was straight. She was firm. She was enormously encouraging. But she presented me with a challenge. She was my "comfort".

I need to rise to that challenge. And it is hard. One day, I may be able to share with you just how hard.

In the meantime, I wish you comfort. Not the cosy comfort of the easy chair, but the robust comfort of encouragement – and the force to face what you prefer to ignore. May you rise to it!

A Moodscope member.

*And at this point I am irrepressibly reminded of Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition torture sketch: "Cardinal Fang – fetch the comfy chair!" http://bit.ly/2fYiyze ; I am sorry for it – but there it is!

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Monday, 9 October 2017

Back to University.

The guy on Reception at the Best Western Hotel was not happy. He couldn't cope with the flow of customers... increasingly irritable customers. He told me he was "stressed." I didn't need to be told, but I'm glad he shared. I sympathised.

That little bit of rapport through sympathy was enough for him to open up. He confessed he was going to leave. This was the fourth hotel he'd been at - and I'm guessing they were all as 'bad' as one another. It wasn't his fault.


My heart went out to this young man because I could see his future. He was running from problems instead of embracing them. I knew that as soon as he changed hotels again, he would encounter exactly the same types of issues as he was clearly failing to face here. Whether it's a job or a relationship - running from the problem only ends in finding the same issue reincarnated in your next scenario.

This is why I love problems.

They save me a fortune in University fees.

Let me explain and expand. If you're like me, you'll be bombarded by 'opportunities' to subscribe to expensive educational sites. What these sites fail to realise is that I am already enrolled in an amazing educational programme... for free!

Not only am I enrolled, I get to take the same class over and over again until I pass! And when I pass, I graduate to a whole new level of 'problems as my teachers'!

Now, don't get me wrong. I secretly 'hate' problems. I'd like an easy life. But this is not a realistic expectation - I know that now. Problems S-T-R-E-T-C-H my mind and it never returns to its earlier size or state. Problems make me a better man - more resilient - more able to cope...

...if I learn from them.

Otherwise, I encounter the same problem clothed in another situation or difficult person to deal with.

Recognise now that you too are enrolled in the University of Life where problems are your best teachers.

And here's today's opportunity to share. I'd LOVE to hear about problems that you have overcome on your journey so far - and what you've learned from them.

A Moodscope member.

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Sunday, 8 October 2017

Being nice.

Hands up anyone who thinks they are too nice?

This last week has been a challenging one for me.

Certain people set off the train of thought in my mind that perhaps I am just too nice to others for my own good and actually some people to whom I was nice didn't really like it or appreciate it.

A very good friend told me I was too nice and should step back a bit and not always try to please.

A close family member told me that practically everything she had in her house, I had bought for her and she had too much and to stop buying. My husband of course loved to hear this.

These two people might be right but what they didn't know (through no fault of their own, I just hadn't explained it to them) was the reason why I was too nice and tried to please.

I think it all stems from a feeling of inadequacy on my part.  I have away felt wrongly or rightly that I don't contribute much in terms of humour or light heartedness and am too serious overall. So I tend to be a pleaser and to make up for the lack of normal skills, which other people who don't suffer from depression or low moods seem to posses quite naturally, I am just nice.

I am going to try to stand back a little and not exactly turn into a not nice person but not try so hard to please. The family member who spoke in haste to me but was probably right, may miss the thoughtful practical things I buy her but at least I will give her the chance and space to miss them.

Do others think they are too nice? Any advice would be gratefully received on my part. I don't want or can't undergo a complete personality change but I do think it's time for a slight change in my behaviour. I don't think I can change my low moods but I may be able to make this small alteration to my constantly wanting to be nice (so boring!), to buy to make up for perceived inadequacies and to please.

A Moodscope member

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Saturday, 7 October 2017

Let us have garlic.

Last year, there was conversation on the Moodscope blog which touched raw places for some people. (I am only writing now about it because I keep a note of things I'd like to write about and I simply haven't done it so far.) I think touching raw places is almost never a bad thing. Provided nobody is being rude or hurtful, it is not a bad thing to get down into the sore parts. It can be needed and good, like drilling decay in preparation for a smooth, white, filling. In yoga there is a theory that the movements you want to do least are the ones you need to do most.

Facing up to the bad stuff in our lives, from the dodgy to the horrific, is never easy for us and sometimes can, and must, only be done with professional guidance. But being able to say you have been torn into pieces by bad things and are willing to accept that you must travel forwards with it, I believe, is the difference between surviving and living.

I think for many, many years I have been surviving. And I need to upgrade to living. I need to do some exorcising and, as yet, I don't know how in particular I will go about this. But step one is being aware. Surviving only to re-live our pains daily, is akin to walking with bare feet along a path of broken glass. At some point we must pick up the glass and carry it, allowing ourselves to walk, with sorrow perhaps, but without renewed and searing pain.

I will keep you posted on my ideas for the exorcisms that might upgrade me. (I might start with new undies, woo hoo!) And I look forward to hearing if any of you lovely lot have exorcisms to share.

Love from

The room above the garage
A Moodscope members.

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Friday, 6 October 2017

What would you do if I sang out of tune?

Even my teddies couldn't stand my singing voice.

I loved to sing and I enjoyed listening to music. I could never understand why my parents would ask me to sing in my bedroom with the door closed.

When I was seven I first realised that other people also did not appreciate my singing.

My teacher divided the class into three groups: the good, the medium and the poor singers. She explained that as I had the worst and loudest voice in the class, I would have to sit outside during singing lessons.

Back then teachers had apparently not heard of the phrase self-esteem, or cared about the effect of isolating a seven-year-old during her favourite lesson.

At a residential school as part of my Graduate Diploma in Education I listened to the music lecturer say that everyone was musical and that he believed that there was no such thing as being tone deaf. After patiently listening to me attempt to sing a simple song in tune for half an hour, he was wondering if he had met his first tone deaf person.

My son wanted to learn the guitar at age ten, so I decided I would try to learn as well so I could play songs for the special needs children I worked with. I noticed how the children loved the weekly lesson with the music teacher.

I had read how incorporating music during the day would promote learning and a calmer environment, and so I was prepared to try to forget years of ridicule to learn the guitar.

After a few weeks, the teacher explained I would improve with personal instruction. She meant my son was being held back by his mum. She had learnt about self-esteem and knew how fragile mine was.

I really wanted to play in front of my students but the patient guitar teacher thought I should wait until I improved playing the basic guitar chords. She was patient and realistic.

Finally one week, when the music teacher was away, the students were disappointed so I decided to play my guitar and sing a few songs. The children seemed to like it and I felt good I finally had found an appreciative audience.

However one teacher told me that the words coming out of my mouth and the music I played on the guitar were totally different. Another told my singing was like a cat in pain and that I was torturing the guitar.

Those teachers had no respect for my self esteem but believed in tough love!

So you may think I sold the guitar and never sung in public again.

Not me. Since the children enjoyed my playing, I would play with no adults around. I did that until the guitar 'disappeared' never to be found!

Have you ever taken a risk and tried something you were not skilled at?

Is there something you would like to try but are worried what other people may say or think?

A Moodscope member.

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Thursday, 5 October 2017

Confronting the elephant.

Mary recently wrote about an elephant in the room. I was immediately moved to write about my attempt to confront the elephant in my family which didn't go exactly as I wanted, but has improved the situation nevertheless.

My elephant is that I suffered what I call emotional abuse from my mother from being a child until, well, who knows? Other family members have acknowledged it, although they may call it something else. Not getting on. An odd situation. A difficult relationship. She calls it... well, nothing. She refuses to accept that any of it happened. She won't even concede that our relationship has ever even been difficult. Any time I have tried to raise even the smallest incident it has been denied and I've been told that I make things up. That's partly how she got away with it all for so long, by convincing everyone that I make things up.

After 40 years, which have contained unacknowledged periods where we haven't spoken for months or even years at a time, I decided enough was enough and I was going to confront it head on in a way she couldn't easily ignore. I wrote her a letter. It wasn't a huge blaming kind of a letter, just letting her know that I wasn't going to be able to see her until we could at least talk about the past.

She replied saying she hoped I was better soon and able to see her again. It was pretty much what I expected but still sad. My mental illness was once again positioned as the problem rather than her behaviour.

Since then, I haven't seen her, but I feel a lot better. I have faced up to the elephant even if she isn't able to. Sometimes it's hard, not having her in my life, but then I remind myself how hard it was having her in my life and I feel okay about it. I have regained some control. So, even if seeing the elephant doesn't work out the way you'd like, it can still be the best thing to do.

A Moodscope member.

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Wednesday, 4 October 2017

My BFF and Me!

[To listen to an audio version of this blog please click here: http://bit.ly/2g72jjR]

Second day at senior school. Everything was so big. The classrooms were immense, the hall was cavernous, the corridors never-ending. The big boys hulked in corners, exuding slouching menace and the journeys from one lesson to another were terrifying.

I had already decided I didn't like the teachers. I didn't like anyone in my form. The girl next to me had stolen my pencil case. The boys on the bus had pulled my pigtails and called me four-eyes.

There was only one good thing about this new school and that was the school uniform. No – I didn't like the scratchy grey skirt, I had not got to grips with the tie and the purple was a bit much to take. But – oh glory – the pockets of that hideous blazer were just the right size to hold a paperback book.

Lunch time. We queued up in a straggly line for grey liver and lumpy mashed potato. There were rumours that a toenail had once been found in those potatoes. My stomach clenched in a knot just thinking about it. I joined the meandering tail end and pulled out my book. Head down, meeting the eyes of no one, I lost myself in adventure.

Only to bump hard into someone. Someone like me who also had their head down in a book. I took a surreptitious look at the title and gasped. "You're reading Biggles too!"

And thus was a friendship formed. Marcelle has been my best friend for forty-two years. There have been times when we have been geographically far apart, even times when circumstances meant we have not spoken for months; but when we do meet – even after years apart, within twenty minutes we are finishing each other's sentences.

It was she who watched the Stephen Fry documentary with me. She has known I have bi-polar disorder since we were thirteen. She read a Spike Milligan biography and thought, "Oh, that explains Mary." She didn't tell me; she thought I knew. (I didn't.)

At the beginning of summer, she phoned. "Can you come round on Tuesday?"

She explained that she had been suffering with depression and her therapist had pointed out that her support network had eroded. Her children had married and moved away. A close friend had moved away. Her parents were aging. She needed to be proactive in building up that network again and she had thought of me.

So, every Tuesday now, I go over and we walk her little dog and talk. It's two hours of therapy for both of us – even if we can never remember exactly what we talk about. We talk families, books, theology, books, current affairs, books, friends and yes, books. We are both still voracious readers.

I know am lucky to have such a true friend: not everyone does and I value her friendship more than I can say. I know she values me too.

I am her best therapy and she is mine. That's what friends are for.

A Moodscope member.

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Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Go with the flow - Part 2.

In my previous blog Go with the flow – Part 1 (19 September 2017) I reflected on how difficult this used to be for me to do.

One thing that helped me learn to let go more easily was the following "Superwoman Commandments" copied out in beautiful calligraphy writing (I think they apply to men too!)  I found this in a charity shop, and I just love the thought that someone took the time to copy them out and frame them for themselves. They are prominently displayed so that I see them several times a day.

Superwoman Commandments:

1 Thy time hast value... thou shalt not surrender all the hours of the days and nights to others.

2 Thou needst not achieve perfection in all things.

3 All things asked of thee need not be done.

4 Thou shalt learn to say "No".

5 Thou shalt attend to thine own needs as thou wouldst tend to the needs of others.

6 Thou shalt lay a portion of thy burdens upon others, not keep unto thyself the doing of it all.

7 Thou shalt give time first unto those thou lovest and that which matters most in thy life.

8 Fix thine eyes upon what is right, not upon what is wrong or what passeth with the moment.

Whosoever followeth these principles will not sacrifice all on the altar of superwomanhood, but will secure unto herself and her loved ones joy and fulfilment.

Which one speaks to you most and why?

A Moodscope member.

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Monday, 2 October 2017

Better to change the lightbulb (twice) than to curse the darkness.

Lady Penelope and I have just endured six weeks of darkness. The light in the toilet had gone. Call it a shot in the dark, if you like, but we'd changed the bulb. This was obvious, of course, so the suspect dodgy switch was given the blame when the new bulb failed to deliver any new light on the subject.

Penelope's son is an electrician-in-training, so we patiently adapted, waiting for him to come back and fix it.

Fix it, he did.

He replaced the bulb again.

It worked.

And, yes, I feel really stupid.

Not much of a man, am I, eh?

(If 'man' = 'DIY expert')

Changing your lightbulb... twice

I don't feel alone, though.

I'm willing to believe you've got something that's not working in your life - something you've tried already (unsuccessfully) to fix. So you've shifted the blame, or, at very least, shifted your attention onto something else... the wrong something else. You and I need to give our original 'fix' a second chance.

Go back to the lightbulb and try another one.

I'm walking away from the darkness with a clear lesson: check more than one lightbulb - in other words, don't quit too quickly.

What's your lightbulb that isn't working at the moment? I'd love to know.

It reminds me of a joke:

Q: How many long-suffering mothers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: None

Why? Because they'd rather suffer in the dark (and moan about it!)

A Moodscope member.

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Sunday, 1 October 2017

Recently, I've been talking with my inner child. This is now an on-going conversation and she is starting to tell me more and more as she is becoming more confident that someone is listening to her.

I recently bought her some coloured gel pans and a beautiful notebook to write things in. Each day she and I write things down, and she chooses a sparkly butterfly sticker to add to the page.

A couple of weeks ago, we did a jigsaw puzzle together. It's the first one she's done for many years, I think since my sons were small and doing jigsaws. She hasn't done a really challenging one for at least 45 years. It was such fun and took us 3 days to complete it. (I was on holiday at the time.)

Last week I bought myself a watch as my 60th birthday present for myself. She absolutely loves it. A nice grown-up thing.

Now my inner child has told me that she would really like a kaleidoscope. I had one when I was her. It had a turning bit at the bottom so that you could move the coloured bits inside really carefully and get a whole panoply of patterns. She also fancies getting a bubble-blowing wand too. She can be whatever age she feels like with all these things. We have dogs at home, which she always wanted when she was growing up, but pets weren't allowed. She had lots of teddies and things. Perhaps we'll get another one if we see one we like.

She's just asked me how long these blogs are supposed to be. Well, I found a longish one which is 434 words. Oh, we've got plenty of space, then, she tells me.

My inner child has always been rather a self-contained little body, observing but not saying much; a bit afraid that if she opens her mouth too readily, she'll be mocked. I think she grew up too quickly, was rather friendless, and had to be self-reliant. As a result, she came a cropper in her teens and I've never really recovered from it. So she and I are working together to re-integrate and be each other's best friends.

We're going to make sure we go out each week, even if it's just for a short time. Maybe take a nature walk, go to a museum (she loves museums), go and buy some special little thing, or watch people at a café or somewhere. Maybe ride around on a bus to somewhere and explore. Who knows?

What I do know is that I feel more 'myself' for having rediscovered her.

A Moodscope member.

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