Sunday, July 7, 2013

On Sightseeing in Görlitz

A number of weeks ago I took a visit to Görlitz, the most easterly town in Germany. From where I live down south it was 7 and a half hours on the fast train, so in other words I probably could have made it to New York in the same amount of time. Even though the nature of my travel was business rather than pleasure, I did feel a tad smug at the fact that I am slowly beginning to lay claim to the fact that I have indeed seen a lot more of Germany than many of the Germans themselves. 
I guess it's understandable that if you are going to spend a day travelling to get somewhere, that you might just choose a trip to Italy above that of one to a smallish town on the Polish border, but still...
Germany is a fascinating country. Culturally speaking it is very much like two countries because of it's divided history, and what I love about the east is that mixture of progressive can do newness combined with the remnants of the past. And being an island woman, there was also the buzz of being able to walk over a bridge and arrive in Poland. (Phone call to daughter: 'hey, I just walked to Poland, WALKED to another country like!' 'Mom, you're so pathetic.')
Görlitz, without a shadow of a doubt, is worth a visit: beautiful buildings, culture galore, old churches, cobblestones and all that... 
My room, including cupboard with skeleton
And of course that eastern German flair whereby I wasn't really sure if my hotel was a shabby 'aul attempt at being posh, or if it really was a beautiful Jugendstil room with character. It was one of these run down places in an old building with old furniture and chandeliers, but it was a bit dead, and one of the doors of the wardrobe in my room was locked and without a key, so I did spend the night wondering if there was a skeleton in the cupboard. 

But here's the thing. There were a few tables and chairs outside the hotel bar on the street and they were occupied by a few dodgy looking characters. As I arrived to the reception (where there was a sign saying to check in at the bar), a little car pulled in that was from one of these mobile carer companies, you know, those dudes who go to old peoples houses and check on them to distribute medication and whatnot. So the guy gets out of his car and I go into the bar to check in. The guy at the bar takes me  back over to the reception where I see that in the meantime, the carer dude is in the hallway and one of the dodgy old guys from outside is sitting on one of those posh looking sofas taking off his shoes. As I check in, the carer dude proceeds to change a bandage or something on the old guys foot. I look away feeling nauseous.
At this stage I am tired and giving them dagger looks from the part of me that is a  cranky intolerant withering woman. But I keep the mouth shut and go to my room - the one that I'm not sure whether it's posh or not, the one with the skeleton in the cupboard.  
I decide I need to see more of the city (this is the part where I walk to Poland), but as I leave the hotel, I see that the old guy is back outside again, drinking a beer in the evening sun. He gives me a smile.
The bridge to Poland
And that's when I see the beauty in it. A city where people can work around caring for the elderly in a way that means they still have the freedom to sit outside a bar and enjoy the evening. Humanity, that's what I saw - a twinge of humanity, in a country that gets a lot of flack for being otherwise. I wondered where the old chap would be sitting if powers that be decided it unfitting to attend his wounds or whatever it was with his feet, in the public hallway of a run down hotel. What about the legal aspect? Insurance? Hygiene? The logistics of the whole thing? But you see, Germany is country as diverse as it is big, and for me, this kind of 'sightseeing' ranks higher than a holiday camp on the riviera. 
Because this was something that told me that the world was an ok place and that's when the room and the skeleton didn't matter anymore. And even if there had been no cobblestones or culture or impressive buildings, I'd been to a place where I'd caught a glimpse of something beautiful, and a place where all of a sudden, I stopped being afraid to grow old. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

How Important are Corporate Values?


Do We Really Need Corporate Values?

  Something caught my eye with regard to the Barclays scandal. It was the term: cultural corruption. I'm so used to skimming over details about complex derivative issues, that it made me curious to read more.
What was identified as cultural corruption was that Barclay's had pursued a 'revenue at all costs' strategy, fostered a culture of fear and intimidation, were actively hostile to compliance with banking rules, presided over a 'broken culture' where problems were ignored or buried, and ultimately allowed the business to 'spin out of control'.
That pursuing revenue at all costs has been highlighted as corrupt signifies the importance of corporate values. We all need to pursue revenue to some degree, but doing so 'at all costs' can ultimately end in disaster, as with Barclays.
When I explain to people that my work has a strong focus on delivering workshops on Vision, Mission & Values, I am often told how naive I am, and that ultimately corporations are only interested in the money. My argument is that the 'only' needs to be taken away. All businesses are profit driven in one way or another, but without a corporate culture that embraces even the most basic of values, they are headed for trouble.
Fostering a culture of fear and intimidation is not something unique to Barclays. From large organisations to the smaller family run business, I have witnessed this over the years as being almost endemic. Often during workshops and training interventions I've had a rosy view of the organisation, then when it came to one to one coaching sessions where individuals felt themselves to be in a safe environment, another story would emerge. I often got to hear alarming examples of the business not living it's principles. I also heard some fantastic ideas that were never put forward, all due to fear. People fear losing their jobs, bonuses, promotion opportunities and at times even subtle things such as shifts, break times and vacation approval. Bullying and harassment also effects self esteem and confidence, causing people to feel unsure and less likely to pose a challenge to superiors. This type of resignation is not only a heartbreaking let down for humanity, it is also destructive for the organisation, not only from a legal perspective.
I've noticed there is a paradigm shift in our attitude to business ethics when we now see cultural reforms up there on the top of the to-do list.
I worked for a company once where it was my job to workshop the business leadership principles with all new hires on the management team. I was impressed.  Impressed, that is, until my boss told me that the leadership principles were 'good in theory, but nobody uses them.' He told me that actually, within the company it was more important what got done than how it got done. I soon realised that I may as well have been making sand mandalas with the new hires, and, coupled with a culture of fear and intimidation, stating my opinion meant that luckily I didn't last long there. That  organisation have since had extremely bad press with regard to how they treat their people, along with very high fluctuation.
Despite all that, they are still an international hugely successful organisation. And it is important to note that as far as I am aware, they are not operating any scams. But the bottom line is, if a company doesn't foster a culture based on it's corporate values, it is only a matter of time until the fallout  from this will force it to rethink it's strategy.  High fluctuation, low morale and financial setbacks are the cost when it comes to double standards in corporate culture.
So what values do we need to live by in our modern organisations? How about: Communication, Respect, Integrity & Excellence. Sound good? Four essential values that could be the axis of any organisation. Oh wait, we need to live them, not name them. After all, these were Enron's core values!

Monday, April 1, 2013

After Lent

I've just had a glass of wine. I didn't really want one but I had to, because Lent is over.
Giving up alcohol for lent is not easy. I don't mind abstaining from the drink, it's the explaining that's difficult. People can never understand why an atheist would do something for Lent. So I have to explain that as I eat a shit load of chocolate at Easter and masses of food at Christmas without being questioned about religion, that it is only prudent to adhere to the fasting traditions if one is also tagging along for the feasting ones.
Alcohol - if you are Irish you will probably have an unhealthy attitude towards alcohol. Most people drink too much or don't drink it at all, neither of which are healthy. The ones who drink too much are either raving alcoholics whose whole life has been destroyed because of drink, or alternatively, people who function at about 60% of what they could be, but because they 'enjoy a jar', and pay a massive price to do so.
Those who don't drink are either 'recovering alcoholics' (which to me is an oxymoron), who go to AA meetings and talk about drinking and live their lives thinking and talking about drink but just not drinking it. Alternatively they are crashing bores who chose not to drink and have a slightly condescending attitude towards those who do, but pretend that they don't. And there are the pioneers, but if you're not Irish you won't understand, so just imagine people who are clueless about drink and don't want to taste it because their mammy, or teacher or local priest said so.

I should be one of the above, but the secret German in me causes me not to always fit in to Irish ways. So I gave up drink for Lent. I like a little tipple I have to admit. A shot of rum in my hot chocolate, a glass of wine with dinner a few pints in the pub and the odd mouldy night. So it's not as if I were giving up lollipops or condoms or sauerkraut. The first week was the worst. But then, the less you drink, the less interest you have in it.
I only remembered today that I could have had a drink yesterday, so I had a glass of wine at dinner.
And that made me feel that the whole thing is a bit silly. I'm just not a black and white sort of person.
I'm also not a very balanced person either though, so it was good to see, just as a test, if I actually would miss alcohol. I didn't really, and I remembered that I've often been off it before as I never drank whilst pregnant.


So now what? I've decided to open a bottle of wine and have another glass, to celebrate my successful lenten fast. A nice red rioca reserva. And then because it's open I'll have some more tomorrow and then finish it off on Wednesday. It's good wine, I can't let it go off.
All the same, I'd love a nice cup of tea...


Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Cure for Warts

A few years ago my daughter had a wart on her foot. But warts are like mice - they rarely come in ones. Soon it was a little cluster of warts so we paid a visit to our local GP who decided to use a selection of treatments.
First of all he scraped at her foot with a little instrument that looked like a shaving razor for dwarves. When doctors do things like that it makes me wonder what the big attraction is to studying medicine and becoming a medic. "What do you want to do when you grow up little child?" "I want to scrape dirty warts of peoples feet."
But it didn't end there. He also put some sort of ointment on it and gave her a few of those little homeopathic pebble-like sweets.
Then he gave us both some serious instructions. There were 7 warts on her foot. We were to get a paper bag and put 7 small pebbles in it - not the homeopathic ones, real pebbles. Then we were to leave the bag at a crossroads. Whenever the bag disappeared the warts would also go.

Of all the remedies I thought the latter made the most sense. Because apparently warts go away on their own eventually, and I was sure that if my daughter just believed that the warts were going to go that it might have some sort of influence on the mysteries of the immune system.  Needless to say, the doctor we visited was in the West of Ireland.
Despite similar university education, there seems to be quite a difference in cultural attitudes regarding best practise regarding the cure of the patient.
Problem was, though, that my daughter wasn't sold on the pebbles in the bag idea. She wanted an operation, crutches, bandages, plaster paris and a week off school. It never happened, and years later the 7 warts had started to have offspring and I knew if we didn't treat them that eventually these warts would start taking over the family.
So I decided to go the absolute safe medical route. I bought one of those sprays that freeze off warts.
My daughter took a look at the wart spray and screamed, telling me that it would hurt too much. I assured her that it wouldn't, and that the only reason her brother had gone through severe agony whilst I used a similar freezing spray on  a wart he'd had on his finger, was because he was the oldest kid and you use the oldest kid as guinea pig to test things on, and that I'd put on way too much by mistake, and that no, I was not going to accidentally burn a hole in her skin in the effort to remove the warts with a freezing spray. I would get the hang of it this time.
We agreed to do it 'tomorrow'.
Then the next day we agreed to do it the day after tomorrow. And then about a week went by.
So I decided I'd have to spring on her when she'd least suspect it.
So as we sat on the sofa, I hid the freezing stuff in my pocket and took hold of her foot to give it a massage. Oh, wrong foot. I took the other one. Also wrong foot.
"Hey, where are your warts?" I asked.
She felt her feet. I felt her feet. We looked at her feet. And there were the warts - gone.

So I decided that buying the freezing tube of stuff had the same effect as the bag of stones would have had, if she'd only believed. The fear of her mother's use of poetic license with medicinal cures, rather than taking careful medical instructions, had just made her warts go away. It must have been the mysterious workings of the immune system.
So here's my advice. If your kids have warts, forget about all the hocus pocus. Just buy some of that aggressive freezing lotion stuff, and then tell your kids you've bought it. If the fear of you using it on them doesn't make the warts disappear, then just go use it.
You're cured.



Friday, March 29, 2013

A Revolution at my Kitchen Table

So this is it. I've just published my first ebook. It's an ebook for kindle and available on Amazon. I'm still fiddling around with how it all works, but I've gotten as far as putting the whole damn thing together and publishing it.
The cover is a photo of a deserted house. Now let's analyse - arsekick is diverse, it has many rooms, hence the house. The house is falling to pieces, so hence the relationship to my dishevelled life. The house started out in life with different aspirations. There is a story there. Stories. History.
And you could also say that the trees and shrubs growing up around the deserted house are lush and fertile and that nothing is ever linear.
In actual fact the only reason that the cover is such, is because it is a photo that I took myself and I was afraid of taking a photo from the web in case I get sued. I'd prefer a photo of a female warlord throwing a punch, or at least something sexy.

I also downloaded a book written by a guy who has a number of bestsellers on amazon. He makes the very good point that 'vanity' is a word for private publishing invented by publishers. If a person opens their own business is it never referred to as 'vanity' business.
And the way the publishing world is changing is really exciting. I've brought out this book all on my own. No editor, no publisher, no marketing, nothing. And because of the low costs, I will also be giving a chunk of the profit to charity - but I need to work that one out, more to follow.

Most exciting is that it all happened at my kitchen table. When I finished uploading all the amazon files I baked a lemon poppy seed cake without having the feeling that baking the stupid cake and being the crux of a family meant the end of my writing career. This is a revolution!

So next step is that you read the book, either for free from the Amazon library, or you buy the book which about the same price as a cafe latte - no cheaper actually, it's euro 2.60(ish) I'm not sure exactly. And if the link below doesn't take you there, than just search my name in amazon or the name of the book: Arsekick Pick.

And if you think this is a good revolution, you might press a few stars on the amazon page to give me a bit of a reputation?

http://www.amazon.com/Arsekick-Pick-ebook/dp/B00C2Y3OE6/ref=la_B00C3BYCB2_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1364551127&sr=1-1

And remember that this is all because of you. Without readers I never would have been inspired to take it further.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Retreat

Winter is a long time when you come from an island that doesn't really do seasons. It was so cold that I even had to buy a coat and also discover that things like gloves, hats and scarves have an actual function. But it wasn't just the weather. I've been on a retreat.

I don't mean an organised retreat where you officially say you are going on a retreat, because that wouldn't really be a retreat, would it? It would be an action. A statement.
What I did was retreated. I didn't plan to. I just became reflective and reclusive and my favourite place was solitude. I did a lot of thinking, a lot of deciding and a bit of changing. I was surprised at that. I thought people didn't change very easily, or that it was huge work to change, but in this case it just happened. A bit like puberty happens to kids and as they hysterically scream at you to 'leave me alone' they also reassure you that this behaviour is nothing to do with their hormones whatsoever, no, it's all because of 'you'!
So was my retreat of the hormonal nature? I believe not. Possibly something to do with age though, and definitely attitude.
And then something even worse happened. I shed a few layers of tolerance, patience and understanding. I decided that no, I won't 'stay calm' and drink coffee. It's not my fault though, it is the fault of the greater gods who sent me on the retreat. I didn't make these decisions consciously, the Gods  just allowed me to release my inner cantankerous cow. Cows are sacred in some countries you know.
Oh hang on  a minute, cantankerous cow is what people used to call me before my retreat. So maybe I just became a tad more self aware.

And on the subject of the Gods, well I did something very wild recently. I went to church! You see I was sitting (on my own of course, due to the retreat) in a cafe on a Sunday morning and I saw people going into this big church across the road. Wow, I thought, how quaint, people still go to churches. So I got curious and went and joined them. I wasn't sure if it was a catholic or protestant church, but I decided protestant because there were bibles on the seats and when they sang a hymn, the number of the hymn came up on a display on the wall. Do catholics do that?
I think in general that the protestants have better hymns, but otherwise the sermon was pretty much the same. The priest read a bit from the bible, and only then did I discover that the phrase 'healer heal yourself' came from the new testament. Very apt for my current state of mind I thought. Afterwards I thought about how as a kid I used to have to pretend I had been at mass. (Who said mass?) But now I would have to pretend I had been at the museum in order to save the embarrassment of explaining to people where I'd been.

So the bottom line, reader, is that I have not blogged so much as I've been on the retreat, but now that I'm back, please expect the blogs to be even more bitter and twisted than before, and possibly not as frequent, as I am also doing a lot of business writing at the moment. I will post the links when it's presentable enough for the public eye.
On the 2nd of April I move into my new office space on the 7th floor at Park Office in Karlsruhe. After the retreat I'm looking forward to a bit of elevation...





Thursday, February 21, 2013

Newgrange

Around a year or so ago, I took a day off work in order to visit the Neolithic site at Newgrange.
But because Newgrange was there and wasn't going to go away I decided to go for a coffee instead. I'd like to emphasise here that I've never neglected the importance of having time to go for coffee. After all, the 'coffee morning' is a significant instrument of gossip, one of Ireland's most important forms of social control. But Newgrange, well I'd been there before, a number of years earlier and I just felt incredibly drawn by the place.
Newgrange is what they call a 'passage grave', and it being over 5,000 years old, one can only speculate that it might have had some sort of religious significance. Maybe that's one of the things that draws me to it - the fact that we can only wonder what the whole thing is about. How did people who only lived for about 30 years manage to gather stones from distant places and erect this massive building, aligning it with the rising sun so that the sunrise can flood the chamber at solstice? When they simulated the solstice light from within the chamber that last time I'd been there, I remember feeling overwhelmed. So I wanted to go again. And now that I don't live there and it's far away and almost inaccessible, I did go. Last Saturday.

There was an old bokety van that left from outside the tourist office and charged 17 euro return. Not bad for a post celtic tiger trip, and the bus itself made me feel like Ireland in the good aul bad aul 80's: semi unprofessional, friendly, possibly illegal and somebody other than the driver is making a few bob out of it.
As soon as I boarded the excuse for a bus, I hear 'hello, are you also travelling alone?' It's one of those annoying solo tourists who like to latch on to people.
'Well, em, no, not travelling as such, just taking a day out to go on a spiritual journey.'
'Spiritual?'
'Yeah, I've been here before and I find it an incredibly spiritual place.'
I politely hear that she's from Holland, staying in the city centre and that she loves Ireland. I politely tell her that she looks Irish with her red hair - because gingers who visit Ireland tend to feel special.
And then I move to the back of the bus, excusing myself with a book. Some young Americans get on and a moody couple with a lunch box (I'm guessing Germans).
I've been here a few times before so I'm not surprised to hear that there will be a two hour wait until we can do the next tour. I visit the tourist centre and the gift shop, pay some humungous price for some mini slice of quiche and as big as the place is, I keep on seeing the ginger Dutch lady who I have decided I am not going to be nice to, as I am on a spiritual journey and not a tourist hosting mission.
It's about 3 or 4km to the actual site, so instead of waiting on the shuffle bus I decide to kill time and walk over. The smell of Spring trying to push it's way through the hard winter soil and lush landscape along the river Boyne is precious. As I approach the site, I begin to fill with wonder, awe, something that I can only explain as soul, I feel some sort of connection to the mystery of the past, to the things our ancestors knew and did that seem to have gotten lost along the way.
How did stone age women have babies without epidurals? Whatever they did, the population grew, so it was something that worked.
Walking across the lush fields to the site
When the rest of the tour arrive in two shuttle buses, the guide gives us as much info as there is to give, and half of the tour go inside whilst the other half walk around outside. I'm in the half that do the walkabout before going into the chamber. It's one of those sunny February days and a ray of light cuts across the low wintery sky.
The sun - I realise that the sun is still as significant now as it was then - we just don't seem to notice that anymore. And I wonder about the soul. 5,000 years ago, when life was so visceral and short and survival based, what did those people know about eternity that got them building this passage grave. I feel overwhelmed.
But then something happens. I walk behind a big stone in my spiritual state, and yes, there she is - Dutch ginger lady, throwing up, and believe me, not in a ladylike throwing up way, but more in how I might have imagined our neanderthal ancestors to have done.






Light across the wintery sky. Newgrange on the left
I'm mad. She's been ruining my spiritual retreat since I boarded the bokety bus. So I walk off in the other direction and get about 100 yards away before my conscience sends me back. I go over and put my hand on her shoulder.
'Are you ok?'
'Oh, yes, thank you, just feeling a bit sick, but better now.'
I give her a paper hanky, then change my mind and give her the whole pack. She looks pale.
'Are you sure you're ok?' I ask again.
'Yes, thanks, I think it's just the stress of travelling alone and then the bus journey.'
There's a story there I tell myself, but I'm not going to ask to hear it, not when I'm on my damn soul searching one day retreat with half of it already in the back of a  15 year old red Ford Transit Van.
As we get our turn to go into the chamber she turns around and drops the whopper -
'So where is the spiritual part of all this, is it inside the chamber?'
'Oh, it's probably just me that finds it spiritual' I reply, offering her a Nurofen Plus the way you might hand someone a chewing gum.
And that's when I begin to like her. I realise that the soul and the spirit are endlessly personal and unique, and that only by finding that out like this, can I understand that other people must also find their spirituality in the strangest of places, and that here, in this light chamber, it might be only me who feels a sense of eternity, of peace, of mystery and of soul.
We head back to Dublin, and all I know is that I feel spiritually recharged. I feel kind again and have a newborn energy to cope with the worldly things around me.
Somehow, being in that chamber makes me feel that some part of me will never die. I'm polite as I disembark the bus.
'Goodbye now, enjoy your holiday in Ireland.'
'Goodbye, you should visit Holland sometime, you would love the Windmills.'
'Possibly' I reply, and when I don't mutter fuck off under my breath, I realise that
I am truly on a spiritual high.



Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Thing About Ireland

There was a time, years ago, my first stint in Germany when I was things like 20 something, that I had this madly romantic notion of Ireland. And that was back in the day when there was no internet radio that you could have blasting the farming news in the kitchen, and no Irish Times online or nothing. Germany was Germany and Ireland was Ireland. There were Deutsche Marks and Irish Punts, and the Irish 5p, which was on a par to today's 5cent, worked as a Mark, similar to a Euro in phone boxes and cigarette machines. So you didn't need WhatsApp and you could get a really cheap deal on cancer.
Flights were luxury and you got a 'free' meal and 'free' drink in the air, or as my mother used to say (upon arriving sozzled to Germany) 'I paid £500 for that half bottle of wine.' It was just that the flight came for free.
So every year or so I'd come home and go to a trad session, eat a 'full Irish' breakfast and buy a new aran sweater. Everything bad about Germany was purely because it was not Ireland, and my most used sentences were things like 'you wouldn't get that in Ireland' or 'the Germans just don't get it.'
It was because Ireland was a place that no matter what was going on, it was all about people and community and caring and interaction.
So, yeah, I went back. Lock, stock and barrel. I had originally only gone to Germany for three months, and always had the rule that I didn't want to own anything that wouldn't fit in my rucksack upon my imminent return. Of course the three months turned into fifteen years, and I returned to Dublin in 1999 with the aid of a professional removals company who required a removals truck and trailer; a camping van jam packed with the extras; three kids and a German husband ( the latter being the only thing I've gotten rid of in the meantime.)
It's life Jim, but not as we know it...
Twelve years later I realised that Ireland wasn't all that amazing once you were done with the aran sweaters and the sessuins. There was corruption that would make the Russian Mafia look like little Bo Peep, a police force to turn the Muppets into James Bond, and a public health service that couldn't hold a candle to the streets of Calcutta.  So back I went. Realising that it may not be Ireland, or Germany or Germany or Ireland, but that maybe I'm just one of these eternal grumps where 'the grass is always greener, especially in Boolavogue, or the Black Forest, depending upon where I am at the time.

So when I arrived in Dublin airport this morning, I reminded myself that I was spending the week in a dump. A nice dump on the coast, but a place where nothing works properly, and if it does it's because of some bribery or scandal or something that caused three people to get rich and 300 people to get poisoned, or end up homeless or something. Galway - a nice place for those who can survive life 200 metres below sea level. We spent the journey to Galway ridiculing the state of the roads, the god awful neo georgian monstrosities of ghost houses and the sprawls of fields that could be put to better use.
I still had the number of my old taxi driver from Galway, so I gave him a buzz and he met us off the bus. Of course in Germany - the land of pretzels and good horse meat, there would be a proper taxi rank, there would be a proper set down point.
But then the whole Oirish thing started to happen. You see, a German taxi driver wouldn't give you a bear hug to welcome you back to some gaff you used to live in, and a German taxi driver wouldn't remember all of your kids by name, and want to know how they were getting on. And would Mr Taxi, Germany, remember the last trip he picked you up on almost a year ago. But that's Ireland. Mr Taxi, Ireland, knows a few interesting details about my private life that the people who I plan to meet up with this week don't. You see, Ireland is a good country for the multi tasker, and with the demise of the church, taxi drivers have taken on the role of the priest when it comes to anonymous confessions.
Mr Taxi, Ireland, took our cases out of the boot. I had a generous tip lined up.
'Ah, nah', he said, 'get me another time, sure you'll see me again.'
And that was the moment where I got dragged into that time machine, and I was 20 something all over again and Ireland was a place, yes, that place that I had written off,  the one that was all about people and community and caring and interaction...


Friday, January 4, 2013

Lucky for Some - 13!

So I guess the first Arsekick of the year should be just about that - another year.
13 just so happens to be my lucky number. My son and my brother were both born on the 13th, and 13 is also a baker's dozen, and that means that normally the 13th cake is mine...

Looking back though, 12 was a good and lucky year. It was madly turbulent with the big move from the wild west of Ireland to the nice calm city outskirts of Karlsruhe, in the sunny south of Germany.
But it was a good move and even if I miss Galway, and Dublin and people and landscape and culture and basic good manners from people in shops, I'm still better here. It just feels like that.

And probably the best piece of luck I had all year was losing my job. Of course it didn't seem like that at the time. At the time I believed that it was a great challenge living away from home Monday to Friday without any thanks. I decided  that this must be how some organisations operate and practised the buddhist art of acceptance.
But in the end, to quote Rita-Levi Montalcini:  “Above all, don’t fear difficult moments. The best comes from them." And she should know, she won the nobel prize for something to do with nerve growth, and lived to be 103, passing away just last week (R.I.P.)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rita_Levi_Montalcini

And that is really what happens, the best things are born from the most trying of times, so here I am working for a consultancy, doing work that actually makes a difference, working less hours and making more money. I also learnt that job security is actually at it's lowest when you are employed. Being self employed at least you always know where you stand, and that in turn, gives you the impetus to make things successful. 


So anyways, the year 13...
I did trawl the internet to find out some reasons why 13 is actually a lucky number and it's not very generous on the topic. I did find a piece that said that there are 13 steps on the ladder to eternity in Egyptian mythology, and that the 13th step is where the soul leaves the body. I'm still not sure if it was meant to be a good or a bad thing. 
Having pulled a Tarot Card for the year at a New Year's Eve Party I got the card 'Death'. Yeah, I know, death doesn't mean you are going to snuff it, it means endings and new beginnings, which was very apt for my good self having left a lot behind me in 2012. But today I decided that I would take out the 13th card in the Tarot set just to see what card matches the year. And yes, it was then that I realised that the 'Death' card is number 13.
So maybe numbers are more significant than one thinks. And if they are, then definitely, 13 is my lucky number!
Happy New Year!