A different kind of Christmas message

Every Christmas, here in the UK, after stuffing your face with chicken/turkey/beef, brussel sprouts, veg, Yorkshire puddings to the point you want to explode. At 3pm, Her Majesty the Queen gives an annual Christmas message.

A tradition that dates back to the radio Christmas message given by King George in the 1930s to the UK and the then British Empire via the BBC Empire Service.

It’s a staple Christmas appointment in my family. Granted it’s not for everyone and not everyone is a fan of the British monarchy but it wouldn’t really be a British Christmas without it.

That in mind, I thought about doing something like that for this blog and podcast. Where the actual Christmas message is a fully produced short story. My one would be the bulletpoint pamphlet of how to be more positive.

In fact I did something like this for my SunnyG show on Monday [returning on 6th of January between 1800 and 2000 on sunnyg.com, ok shameless and unsubtle plug done], so let’s do that now.

Let’s take a couple of minutes to spare a thought or two for those less fortunate.

Spare a thought for those who don’t have a home.

Spare a thought for those who don’t have loved ones or no longer have loved ones.

Spare a thought for the emergency services keeping us safe and well this Christmas.

Spare a thought for those who are elderly and vulnerable.

Spare a thought for those volunteering their time to look out for those most vulnerable.

Spare a thought for those having to work during Christmas.

Feeling like Christmas is not as good? Think of three things you have that you like and are grateful for. You got it good if you have 3 or more.

Merry Christmas, Frohe Weihnachten, Feliz Navidad, С Рождеством!

Offline Sundays

One Sunday in August I decided to spend the day offline. No smartphone, no tablet, no laptop. Only a Nokia feature phone for company.

It was a hot, sunny Sunday in Glasgow with clear skies. Probably the only time you’ll hear “hot”, “sunny”, “clear skies” and “Glasgow” in the same sentence until next year.

I went to Glasgow Green, surrounding by trees, sat in the shade under a tree with the sound of happy people chattering along with the River Clyde’s rippling waves nearby.

Being offline here was liberating, like shutting the heavy soundproof door on the busy, noisy, fast connected world I’m used to.

Here it didn’t matter about what was on my task list or where I had to be next. Here I can enjoy the moment – something admittedly I try to do more regularly – and enjoy the rare summer weather.

An hour and a half later it was back to the flat to sit in my silent bedroom. Magic.

I enjoyed being offline so much that I decided to make this a fortnightly feat.

In an era of being permanently connected we should be aware of its consequences. We try to drink alcohol or eat chocolate in moderation (with varying degrees of success).

Maybe it’s time to view being connected in the same way.

Optimism and outlook on life

They say there’s two outlooks on life.

Glass half-full and glass half-empty. Simplistic? Yes, but who hasn’t tried to simplify nuanced ideas?

Common logic says being a glass half-full person is good, right? Not just logic, research too.

Many studies including one by Carnegie Mellon University gave 193 healthy volunteers (between 18 and 55 years old) a dose of the cold/flu. Not surprisingly, the optimists braved it better than the pessimists.

Over a 30 year period the Mayo Clinic also discovered optimists had their risk of premature death slashed by half.

While Yale University found optimists were likely to live on average 7.5 years longer than their pessimist peers.

For someone interested in improving his own wellbeing and positive thinking this is unsurprising but fascinating.

My outlook on life has improved dramatically over the years. From being a somewhat cynical but not completely pessimistic teenager to believing there are reasons to be cheerful.

It seems these studies would make pessimists even more… well, pessimistic. For us positive thinkers, this is surely a moment to start cartwheeling with delight.

Don’t cartwheel just yet and be careful. Too much positivity can be equally troubling.

“Huh?”

While positivity is good for your health and sanity too much positivity can actually stop you from developing resilience. We all suffer emotional pain at some stage in our lives, unfortunately going through it can actually allow us to grow and develop a thicker skin.

A bit like catching a bad flu except you’re not cough and spluttering with a runny nose when your long-time lover calls time on the relationship.

Bad experience and failure can be great teachers.

Not to mention being overly positive can shield you from unpleasant emotions you need to learn to cope with.

Unrealistic expectations which will eventually lead to greater sadness, bitterness and disappointment.

Plus, among your friends you could become – by accident – a patronising, deluded pain in the a***.

Sometimes I see life as a tightrope – the good times on the other side, failure and disappointment at the bottom. If positive thinking was only required then tightrope walking would be the easiest thing to do.

Only with life’s tightrope, you’re tied to a bungee cord to bounce you back up once you’ve overcome that failure or disappointment.

Like drinking in moderation, keep positivity and pessimism as closely balanced as possible, that’ll help you cope with the world around us.

Ok, you can now start cartwheeling.

Happy Rain Day!

Did you know it is Rain day today? You might do if you’re in the US. Or, especially if you’re in the UK, you might think I’m stating the bleeding obvious. Considering that many days here are rainy days!

At times it feels like the amount of rainfall we get is ridiculous – whether it’s in Scotland or in Manchester. Addiction to water must be a huge epidemic within the universe of plants.

Personally I have a mixed relationship with rain. One half hates it: the unpredictability and disruption it causes and in some cases how it can screw up your mood. Not to mention "getting soaked like a soggy kitty".

On the other hand, listening to the rain from indoors, is strangely soothing. There’s something nice about droplets of water in the air falling. Almost like a call to relax but not over any loudspeakers.

Unsurprisingly it’s not celebrated here in the UK. Otherwise it would be the longest celebration of something ever.

In the US however, where it is less rainy, it is a special day. So much so there’s even a Rain Day festival in Waynesburgh, Pennsylvania. All started with local pharmacist William Allison being told by a local farmer in 1874 it always rained on his birthday.

The street festival that happens today began in 1979 and in the last 145 years – it has rained for 115 of them.

Back in the UK, at least we can take comfort of how rain is a powerful destresser and, according to one study, a concentration enhancer.

We should see it as a positive. Difficult since the British mentality is predominantly negative, but you have to start somewhere.

What can Formula 1 and Formula E learn from each other?

Ever since its dawn in 1950, Formula One is the pinnacle motor racing series with petrolheads and casual observers alike.

Equally, I reckon since the 1990s and especially during Michael Schumacher’s well-deserved dominance between 2000 and 2004, it developed the stigma of "oh it’s just cars going around in circles".

Partly thanks to the sophisticated aerodynamics that make overtaking tricky, partly the expensive and complex hybrid engines, partly the budget inequality between the big three teams – Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull – and the other less funded teams such as Racing Point and Haas.

Formula E on the other hand is a new kid on-the-block. Aiming to bring motor racing, the potential of electrical automotive technology and a concern for the environment together.

It’s now a serious rival to F1 with many major car manufacturers ranging from Audi, BMW, Citroen via their DS Automobiles brand, Nissan and Jaguar taking part on street circuits in five continents including Saudi Arabia, Mexico City, New York and London.

Recently, Formula E’s chairman and CEO Alejandro Agag talked to the press before F1’s Austrian Grand Prix claiming that much of F1’s issues stem from the teams’ self-interest and little regard for the sport as a whole.

Watching Formula E in comparison to F1 is like watching a demo of a 16K connected holographic TV. So ahead of its time with cutting edge onscreen graphics, heavy emphasis on fan interaction both at the circuit and on social media.

Especially with fanboost where people can vote for their favourite driver and whoever gets the most votes can use the extra burst of electrical power lasting a few seconds to gain an advantage or overtake.

The close racing is another plus. The finish to the Mexico City ePrix in February was the most incredible finish I ever seen to a motor race and I’ve been following motorsport for more than 20 years.

Compare this to F1 and aside from branding changes, it looks like not much has changed in the last 10+ years. It’s the motor racing equivalent of an ageing uncle reluctant to accept the original iPod is no longer hip and trendy.

However in fairness, since Liberty Media took the reins in January 2018, the sport has been catching up with greater social media engagement, wider fan participation, richer multimedia content in terms of video and the Beyond The Grid podcast (a personal favourite of mine).

Plus, a major regulation overhaul is due for 2021 with the aim of shrinking the budget inequality via a budget cap of $175 million. Ferrari and Mercedes currently spend around $410 million and $400 million respectively contrasting with Racing Point who have a $120 million budget.

This also extends to introducing equality for F1 revenue and prize money distribution. Currently it’s heavily tilted towards the big three.

The cost of Formula E cars by comparison is near 1 million Euros. However it should be clearly stated Formula E is a single-make series unlike F1, since the teams use the same power unit produced by McLaren.

So perhaps not a fair like-for-like comparison in simplistic terms.

Another advantage Formula E has over F1 is recognising the remaining relevance of free-to-air coverage. In many territories F1 is now exclusively behind paywalls of subscription channels and in the UK it could become another one from 2020 if Channel 4 doesn’t renew their contract.

Formula E is shown on the BBC in the UK and worldwide via YouTube live. I believe free-to-air is still important to entice new followers and inspire those pondering a career in motorsport.

The jury is still out whether or not all of these changes will make a difference.

I would agree with Agag to an extent that the teams shouldn’t have an overarching say on the sport’s direction. Democracy within any business is a great thing providing it is balanced with strong leadership and a clear vision.

I love both of them personally as a lifelong motorsport fan but I can see challenges in both. F1 with its historical issues as well as deciding what it should be in the future; Formula E with it’s long-term sustainability concerns after shedding $140 million in losses over four years.

Who takes the chequered flag in the race to be the dominant motorsport? The race isn’t over yet.