Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Reaching new heights

Okay, so after my last monthly challenge in June I was left flying high and, interestingly enough, in August my challenge was high flying.

(By the way, my July challenge was to be glass walking - yes, walking on a bed of broken glass - but unfortunately it fell through so hopefully it will happen at a later date).

August is festival time in Edinburgh. A time for fun, a time for music and laughter, a time for national pride as the sun streams over our beautiful city and bathes the castle and gardens in a bright, uplifting light.

My friend has come to the rescue this month. Our challenge is to have breakfast 100 feet in the air on a platform held up by a crane overlooking the city.

Now, I'm not overly keen on heights. Glass lifts are not my thing, and standing on a clifftop invariably gives me a tingle in sensitive places and a temporary urge to jump off just to see what it would be like. I can't for the life of me understand the urge to throw oneself off a tall bridge with nothing more than a piece of elastic between me and the ground, and, as a former air hostess, jumping out of a plane voluntarily goes completely against my safety training.

So to be strapped into a seat (albeit a very comfy one) and hoisted one hundred feet in the air for breakfast gives a new meaning to a 'room with a view'.

Anyway, we arrived in plenty of time and joined the other twenty people who would be flying with us. The staff treated it as a proper flight, talking of boarding gates, departure times and take off. Normally I would be completely at home with these terms, except that I was standing in the shadow of a bloody great yellow crane with a cheerful driver giving us the thumbs up as we received our safety briefing.

We were led through the departure gate and one by one we climbed into our big black bucket seats and were strapped in. Straps over the shoulders, around the waist and through the legs. Even Houdini would have thought twice about this lot.

Or so I thought, until it occurred to me that underneath me was a small metal plate to rest my feet on and a whole lot of nothing else. Our chairs were literally sitting out from the table so that we would be suspended in thin air once we reached cruising level.

The countdown was made. The thumbs up given to the crane driver. And we were off. Rising slowly and steadily, over the treetops, over the church spires, getting nearer and nearer to the castle. At 100 feet, we came to a gentle stop and the staff served us breakfast from their floored rectangle in the middle of the table. While we ate, the guide told us some amusing stories from Edinburgh's rich history and pointed out the local landmarks, nonchalantly informing us that our seats could swivel if we were brave enough to give it a go.

I looked down, heart in mouth, took a deep breath and swivelled. I was aware of hanging in space, feet dangling, as the crane slowly rotated the table so we could see the views.

And suddenly I was aware of the peace and quiet. Of the birds singing. Of the rich red colours on the tops of the trees that weren't visible from the ground. Of the beautifully crafted facades on the buildings along Princes Street that you don't see when you are focused on heading for Boots or Debenhams.

The height meant nothing. But the thirty minutes we spent suspended above our majestic city was a wonderful reminder of how lucky we are to live here.

And I didn't feel like jumping off once! 

Monday, 21 June 2010

I Dreamed A Dream

Is there anything more joyous than singing your heart out with a group of talented, like-minded people?

My new experience for the month of June has fulfilled one of my longterm (and previously believed impossible) dreams ... to sing Les Miserables on stage. Not only did I achieve that on Saturday night but we were on stage with the Beyond The Barricades professionals.

It's quite incredible how challenges have begun to present themselves since January when I first decided to grab the bull by the horns and try out one new thing each month. It's true that when you focus on something and send your intention out into the universe, opportunities start to show up. My experiences started off quite tame but are becoming more challenging and out of the ordinary with each passing month (wait 'til you see the next couple...).

Over the last few years, as you will know if you have read some of my other posts, I have re-discovered my voice and a passion for performing. So when my friend and I read about the Les Miserables Masterclass taking place in the Alhambra Theatre in Dunfermline, we sent off our applications with a mixture of excitement and a large dose of trepidation.

After all, this was to be a masterclass in acting and performing the songs from Les Miserables with none other than Andy Reiss, a longterm cast member and director of the West End show, and co-creator of the Beyond The Barricades touring show. A masterclass from the master! Wow!

A few days before the workshop, we received pages of lyrics in the post and discovered that we would be singing the numbers on stage behind Andy and the Beyond The Barricades stars to a sell out audience that had paid full price tickets to see the Beyond The Barricades show.

Cue a panicky three days of trying to get the lyrics to sink in (it normally takes me a few weeks of rehearsal to be word perfect).

Saturday was incredible ... mindblowing ... extremely hard work ... and all too soon we were standing in the wings of the stage, awaiting our entrance music. And then it started. The lights dimmed to a red glow, the familiar haunting intro began and we walked onto the stage, nervous and excited. Andy nodded his head, we opened our mouths and the most incredible, beautiful, universal sound came out, word perfect, our well rehearsed harmonies resounding around the theatre. A wave of elation surged through me and the realisation hit me. My god, I was on stage singing songs from Les Miserables with the original cast members!

All too soon it was over, but Sunday was still to come.

On Sunday, Andy taught us how to stage two numbers. We worked on and performed At The End Of The Day in the factory where the girls find out that Fantine is hiding a child and have her sacked.

And then we staged One Day More - complete with marching!

There is a reason why Les Miserables is the most successful musical of all time. I challenge anyone to sing these songs without being swept along on a wave of emotion. It may be quite some time before I come down to earth!!

Thankfully I have time before my next challenge. In the meantime, you'll find me floating above the atmosphere. 

"Earth calling Susan?" ....

Thursday, 3 June 2010

How far will your burger fly?

During my training with Richard Bandler, the co-creator of NLP, Richard told us the following story.

“A man in New York bought a burger from a street seller and was crossing the road eating it when a car knocked him down and killed him. His burger flew out of his hand at the moment of impact and landed about 30 yards further down the sidewalk. The next day, the newspaper article was all about how far his burger flew.”

Not about his life, his achievements, his contribution to society. About how his burger flew 30 yards!

Now, I don’t know about you, but I would hope that people would have something a bit more interesting to say about me when I’m gone.

Writing about this today reminds me of a workshop I attended last year with an amazing public speaker and corporate trainer called Richard Jacobs.

Richard has written a book called “What’s Your Purpose?”, and his workshop was designed to work through seven questions which lead to understanding your purpose in this lifetime.

One of the questions we worked through was “If there was one word that describes how you would most like to be remembered, and which would be etched on your tombstone forever more, what would that word be?

So, if you are interested, here is how you work it out.

You choose 7 words that best describe how you would like to be remembered and then you group together the words that instinctively go together. In my case I chose:

Gracious and caring

Inspirational, passionate and determined

Joyful and fun

You then choose one word to represent each group:




The next step is to merge your 3 words to get one that says ‘Yes’ to you. Trust your instincts and ignore any cynicism or internal criticism you may encounter.

After a long deliberation trying out various words, I word I chose for myself was “Teacher”. I first thought of ‘Leader’, but ‘Teacher’ just somehow felt right.

Because in my role as a hypnotherapist and seminar speaker, I am teaching people all the time. Teaching them to listen to their inner voice, teaching them that they already have all the answers, and teaching them techniques to draw those answers out.

You test your word out by running it through your head. Ask yourself ‘How happy would I be if this were etched on my tombstone after my death?’ If the answer is 9 or 10 out of 10 this question is complete. If not, keep trying other words until you find a 9 or a 10.

Test it again.

‘Here lies (your name), “Teacher”. Rest In Peace’.

Once you have your final word, write it down in a little RIP tombstone sketch.

Remember that this process is about determining your values and aspirations. By choosing a word, you are not saying “This is the way I am all of the time, or even most of the time”. You are simply saying “This word stands for something which is important to me. I would love this word to be a constant theme in my life.”

I have a line I would like to add to it. Over my life so far I have had different jobs, been to many exciting places, met many wonderful people and had some truly incredible experiences. I hope to continue with more of the same, and so I would like to add to my epitaph the following phrase:-

A Life Well Lived!

Now THAT feels GOOD!

Monday, 31 May 2010

Magnificent May

There's something about sunshine that just makes us feel better. That first sensation of warmth on your face, your skin, especially after a long, hard winter. It makes you pause just to drink it in and appreciate the wonder of nature.

Race For Life day (my challenge for this month) dawns exactly like this. A beautiful May morning, warm but with a slight nip to the air which would keep us cool whilst running ... or jogging ... or walking. Of course, I had intended to pitch up fit and fabulously healthy, ready to run 5km easily and effortlessly. But, in the intervening months since we booked our places, somehow my fitness plans have reduced to a couple of hours in the gym the week before.

And so we arrive at the magnificent Hopetoun House  and follow the queue of cars winding through the estate to the makeshift carpark. We are four, but we have already agreed to split as necessary once the race starts and take it at our own pace.

We join the gathering at the front of the stately home, and I can't help but read the messages for loved ones pinned to everyone's backs. I feel unexpectedly touched by the poignancy of reading the long lists of people lost to cancer, and I briefly and surreptitiously wipe a tear away.

Thankfully there's not much time for deliberation as we launch into our warm up and all too soon it's time to race and we are through the starting gates and running. And what a great feeling it is! Running in a sea of pink tops, heads bobbing all around us. Two of our team pull away ahead but we are pacing ourselves. We run for a while and then slow to a walk once we are out of sight of the house. We keep a comfortable rhythm as we walk, jog, have a chat with the neighbours, and put the world to rights. We jog past the groups ahead of us and when we slow to a walk, those same people jog past us with a friendly wave.

We pass the one and two kilometre markers quickly. The 3km sign seems to be evading us until we round a bend at a run and there it is. Once we pass the 4km marker, we start to push ahead, watching our time to make sure we come in on target. We come round the house and all of a sudden the crowds are there. We run up to the last bend and then with a final effort come charging over the finish line feeling very pleased with ourselves.

Our fit friends have come in ten minutes earlier, but we are happy with our effort. And we feel fantastic for the rest of the day. There's nothing like a bit of exercise to get you going and leave you feeling fab. I just need to remember that next time I choose to watch last night's recorded TV over a workout at the gym......

Next year, we may do the 10km race. And we might even run it! 

Thursday, 22 April 2010

April Auditions

"Be our guest, be our guest, put our service to the test...."

March 18th  It's the pre-audition meeting for Balerno Theatre Company and we are learning the song and dance for the forthcoming auditions. This year's panto is Bonnie and The Beast (a Scottish version of Beauty and The Beast). The song presents no problems because it's one of my favourite numbers in the film, albeit with a change to the lyrics.

"No-one's ever been the wiser drinking Irn Bru and Tizer...."

The dance is a different game altogether. The youngsters pick it up first time whilst we 'slightly more mature' folk take a little longer to drum the choreography into our head.

For the next fortnight the song is going round my head constantly. I go to bed at night and can't sleep for running the dance over and over again in my mind. I wake up in the morning and the song is still there. I'm driving my family nuts with the constant repetition. My 10 year old son is word perfect and prompts me every time I forget the words.

Closer to audition day I realise that I will be auditioning on my birthday. It's tradition in our family that the birthday person wear the birthday hat, and for once this turns out to be fortuitous as it occurs to me that the hat looks like a cake with candles on top. I have found a prop for the dance!

March 30th. I turn up for the auditions hat in hand and the nerves and adrenaline kick in. I'm past the "Why am I doing this to myself?" as this is my fourth year in the company, but it doesn't make it any easier. In fact, I think it becomes more difficult because I expect more from myself. I have started to push myself.

This year I have taken on the onerous and almighty task of Producer so I haven't put my name down for a principal part, reckoning that the role of Producer will be big enough to cope with. I start to sing. I still want to do my best even though I'm not after a role. The nerves were there but I enjoyed it and we had fun running through the acting scenes.

The following day I get a phonecall to say I have a callback. What? Wait a minute! That's not in the plan.

April 1st (April Fools Day)  Callbacks. We turn up and are given a completely new song that no one has ever heard of, and one by one we are put on the spot as we are asked to perform it to the group. Followed by more acting.

April 2nd  The phone goes. Audrey the director is on the line and starts the conversation with "Mrs Potts, I presume!" I am speechless. Then I panic.

"How the h*** can I be producer and take on a big role like that? It is a big role, isn't it?

"Huge!" says Audrey with a giggle. "But you'll manage!"

They say if you want something done, ask a busy person. Call me. I'm open for business!

Ashes to Ashes

As my friend writes on facebook...

"Is it too early to make volcanic jokes or should we wait 'til the dust settles?"

Monday, 29 March 2010

Mermaid or whale?

This story was sent to me and I thought I would share it with you.

Recently, in a large city in Australia, a poster featuring a young, thin and tan woman appeared in the window of a gym.

It said, "This summer, do you want to be a mermaid or a whale?"

A middle-aged woman, whose physical characteristics did not match those of the woman on the poster, responded publicly to the question posed by the gym.

To Whom It May Concern,

Whales are always surrounded by friends (dolphins, sea lions, curious humans.)

They have an active sex life, get pregnant and have adorable baby whales.

They have a wonderful time with dolphins stuffing themselves with shrimp.

They play and swim in the seas, seeing wonderful places like Patagonia, the Bering Sea and the coral reefs of Polynesia .

Whales are wonderful singers and have even recorded CDs.

They are incredible creatures and have virtually no predators other than humans.

They are loved, protected and admired by almost everyone in the world.

Mermaids don't exist.

If they did exist, they would be lining up outside the offices of psychoanalysts due to identity crisis. Fish or human?

They don't have a sex life because they kill men who get close to them. Not to mention, how could they have sex? Just look at them ... where is IT?

Therefore, they don't have kids either. Plus, who wants to get close to a girl who smells like a fish store?

The choice is perfectly clear to me:

I want to be a whale.

P..S. We are in an age when media puts into our heads the idea that only skinny people are beautiful, but I prefer to enjoy an ice cream with my kids, a good dinner with a man who makes me shiver, and a piece of chocolate with my friends.

With time, we gain weight because we accumulate so much information and wisdom in our heads that when there is no more room, it distributes out to the rest of our bodies.

So we aren't heavy. We are enormously cultured, educated and happy.

Beginning today, when I look at my butt in the mirror I will think, ¨Good grief, look how smart I am!¨

Monday, 22 March 2010

You've been warned!

If I Had My Time To Live Over

by Erma Bombeck

(written after she found out she was dying from cancer).

I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for the day.

I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.

I would have talked less and listened more.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained, or the sofa faded.

I would have eaten the popcorn in the 'good' living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have sat on the lawn with my grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television and more while watching life.

I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn't show soil, or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I'd have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, 'Later. Now go get washed up for dinner.' There would have been more 'I love you's' More 'I'm sorry's.'

But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute. look at it and really see it . live it and never give it back.


Don't worry about who doesn't like you, who has more, or who's doing what.

Instead, let's cherish the relationships we have with those who do love us.

Go on - you know you want to!

To friends



Ooh, Matron!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

In the beginning...

God created the Earth and then he rested.

Then God created man and rested.

Then God created woman.

Since then, neither God nor man has rested.


I first wrote this on my facebook page in February...

"I'm in a reflective mood today. Friends are coming up for the big 5 0 and I'm not far behind them. We don't feel 50. We feel the same as when we were galloping our horses over the fields at the age of 11, sharing a student flat at 18, or still partying hard in our 30's. Time means nothing. We look into each other's eyes and we share history. Today is my celebration of friendship. To my friends, old and new....."

Today I have a new BFF and we met through blogging. The nice thing is that, having got to know each other through our blogs, when we finally met, we felt as if we'd been friends forever because we already knew so much about each other.

I first contacted Sharon (Bookish Blonde ) when I was getting stuck with the layout of my blog and my web designer gave me her contact details to see if she could help.

She kindly responded to my pleas, but it was only after we started reading each other's blogs that we realised how much we had in common.

We live a couple of hours away from each other but we always knew we would meet up one day, and finally we did just that. And I can now proudly say this wonderful and inspirational woman has joined the ranks of 'people I most like to spend time with'.

They say that some people come into your life for a reason, and others for only a season. Some friends have come, served their purpose and moved on. Others are sticking it out for the duration. But whether friends are new or old, life is much better with them around!

To friendship!

I love blogging!

I started my blog as a business aide. My web designer told me I should have a blog linked to my site to encourage the search engines to find me. I'm not normally terribly fond of spiders but I can handle virtual ones who crawl over my sites picking up relevant terminology.

So I started blogging. I wrote my profile and I started to write a couple of articles about hypnotherapy. And then slowly, as I continued to write, a proliferation of thoughts and emotions started to take over my waking hours. Sometimes about things I saw in the headlines. Perhaps about a book I was reading or a film I had watched. Often about events that had happened in my past.

I would be sitting on a bus and a title would come to me, quickly followed by prose that I felt compelled to write down there and then.

Or I would wake at three in the morning and have to write down the words that were swirling around my head.

I took to carrying a notebook and pen at all times. And I soon found myself writing about things that were pretty personal, which, surprisingly enough, proved to be the most satisfying and cathartic articles to write. Are they a bit too personal at times? You tell me. But once my friends started taking me aside and telling me how a particular blog had uplifted them or changed their thinking that day, I decided to carry on weaving my personal experiences into my stories.

I now have a notebook full of ideas for blog articles. Some of them are only titles, some are quotes I've heard, many are notes jotted down at random.

For a long time I have harboured the desire to write a book. One day I may well look back and see that blogging was my apprenticeship to becoming an author.

For now, I'm off to the cafe in downtown Edinburgh where J K Rowling used to write her books (actually I hear she has now moved on to the OneSpa at the Balmoral Hotel, but the cakes are better in the caf and the sauna would only make my paper soggy!)

Thursday, 4 March 2010


Time is priceless
yet it costs us nothing.
You can do anything you want with it,
but you can't own it.
You can spend it,
but you can't keep it.
And once you've lost it
there's no getting it back.
It's just gone.

The immortal words of Hannah Montana, adapted from the original by Harvey Mackay.

March madness

The saying goes "March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb".

True to its word, this is only 4th March and already I have been to the ballet on Tuesday and a book signing on Wednesday. More stuff that I wouldn't normally do!

When I was nine, I was going to be a ballet dancer. I went to see Coppelia with my ballet class and sat enthralled in the front row, gazing up at the sylph-like ballerinas in their beautiful costumes.

Mind you, I was also going to be a Black & White Minstrel. My parents took me to see the show in London and I was delighted to see that the lead dancer Margaret Savage had sticky out shoulder blades just like me. I was in the club! Nothing was going to stop me now.

In hindsight, with the advent of political correctness, the Black & White Minstrel show would not have been a good career move!

Anyway the years passed and ballet gave way to horses, and boys and college and I forgot all about my dream of being a ballerina.

Until last week, when I was clearing out some clothes in the loft and I found my old ballet tutus in a suitcase. Still in perfect condition, the sequins sewn on by hand by my extremely patient mother still dancing and dazzling in the light.

Giselle by The Russian State Ballet of Siberia

And later that day, I heard that the ballet was coming to town. I booked my ticket and on Tuesday evening I sat enthralled, in the fourth row, gazing up at the sylph-like ballerinas in their beautiful costumes. And as I watched them dance, I could feel the muscles in my body reliving each and every movement with the ease and grace of my younger years. And it felt good!

Sometimes it's good to remind yourself of past dreams.

Creating Moments

You can create moments in your life or you can hope they show up once in a while - Tony Robbins

I made the decision in February to do something different and give myself a new experience every month. To seize the day, as it were.

I was prompted to do this when I attended the opening of my sister-in-law's exhibition at the Talbot Rice Gallery in Edinburgh. The exhibition had attracted a lot of media attention because the main star of the attraction was the bronze cast of a "flayed man" which has been used by Edinburgh College of Art as an anatomical teaching tool. After twenty years of drawing this unidentified man both as a student and a lecturer, Joan got together with an anthropologist and a photographer and set about discovering his true identity. The full story can be read in the
Scotsman article The Art Of Anatomy
but to cut a long story short, the man was a highwayman hung for robbing gentry in 1776, and because he had been a soldier and was a fine specimen of a man, his body was flayed and a cast made to be used in teaching anatomy.

The exhibition was fascinating and I noticed in the programme that Joan was holding an art class the following Saturday for people who wished to understand more about anatomy and the art of drawing the human body.

Now, I am useless at drawing. Not just bad, but useless. At school, people laughed at my efforts and I quickly took on the label of "I'm not creative".

Actually, many years later, I decided that I am creative. I can sing and dance, I speak four languages, I can put promotional material together and I can write (to a certain extent). But I can't draw.

So I gaily recruited a friend (who can draw) to go along with me and we turned up at the gallery raring to go. Joan told us the background of the cast, and talked us through the anatomy, pointing out the different textures and directions of the muscles, the tendons, the facial characteristics.

We sat on our stools and got drawing. And it was fantastic. Peaceful. Joyful. Creative. And Liberating. Because, whilst my effort was more Hooch than Turner, my attempt wasn't half bad.

I finally shook off my 'I can't draw' label that I have been carrying around for the best part of forty years. And I enjoyed it so much that I returned in the school holiday week with two friends and our four children, ranging in ages from 7 to 13, and we all spent a focused couple of hours totally lost in the moment. Just drawing.

Click on photos to enlarge
It was unanimously voted as the best activity we had done that week.
So February's new experience was drawing. Now I have to set my sights on March.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Lives of quiet desperation

I'm having a wallowing day today. Maybe it's because of the snow (five inches already and it's only 11.30am), or maybe it's just that I'm having an off day.

Last night I watched the incredibly thought provoking film Revolutionary Road and was reminded of Henry David Thoreau's quote "Most people live lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with their song still in them".

It's this hopeless emptiness that is portrayed in the film, and it's done so with the same raw emotion and sense of desperation that so many of us have felt at some time in our lives.

Other times, like today, you get up in the morning and nothing is wrong but nothing is particularly right either.

As Barry Manilow sings:-

"I'm doing okay, but not very well.
No jolts, no surprises, no crisis arises,
my life goes along as it should,
it's all very nice but not very good"

Every now and then I have these moments, and it's in these times of quiet evaluation and introspection that change usually happens.

Because in many ways I am singing my song these days. Metaphorically and physically. I love what I do, I have a wonderful family and some great friends, both new and old. And our all singing all dancing auditions for this year's pantomime by the Balerno Theatre Company kick off next month.

So it's time for me to start singing once again. To look to the future, because as George Burns once said, "I look to the future because that's where I'm going to spend the rest of my life".

But not today. Today is for wallowing. And for listening to Barry.

More about Balerno Theatre Company

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Monday, 15 February 2010

Why did Moses spend 40 years

wandering in the desert?

He refused to ask for directions.

And all because the lady loves ...

To prove his love for her, he climbed the highest mountain, swam the deepest ocean, and crossed the widest desert.

But she left him - he was never home.

Extracted from Why Men Don't Listen & Women Can't Read Maps