Danny Reading



Not Danny – but somewhat similar… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may remember Danny – he of the decimals and so forth.  He’s an after-school tutoring student of mine.  Coming up for twelve, still with speech difficulties and, shall we say, selective about what he gives his attention to…

I no longer teach him maths.  Reading has become the priority for our one hour a week together, since – he tells me – he is a ‘7.2’.  I’ve no idea what a 7.2 is, although I have a nasty suspicion that it could be his reading age, as tested by the special needs department.

To begin with, the reading books supplied by school looked promising – clean, attractively covered and illustrated and with easy words but age-appropriate content.  Week by week he unwillingly stumbled his way through them (“Have we DOT to do dis?”).  There was no discernible improvement.

Then the books changed.  Suddenly I was being presented with slim volumes of scantily worded and colourfully illustrated tales of ‘Ned the Greedy Dragon’, ‘Timmy the Flying Goat’ and their ilk.

“Seriously, Danny?” I remonstrated as yet another infant picture reader was dumped on the table.  “The school gave you this as your reading book?”

“I doze it myself,” he smirked conspiratorially, “I doze it ‘tos its easy!”

There followed a short but pointed lecture from me on the short-sightedness of this strategy and the difficulties that would accrue should he – as seemed more than possible – leave school without basic reading skills.

I didn’t feel I was getting through.
Danny, after all, has had seven long years to perfect his reading-avoidance strategies.  He wears them with pride.

Fortunately I know Danny well.  As I’ve discovered through our years together, motivation is everything with him.  A memory was stirring somewhere in my mind.  I recalled beginning to write a simplified version of Life: A Player’s Guide aimed at 9-12 year olds.  A short rummage around my PC’s hard drive revealed it: Coran and the Cosmic Computer Game.

English: Monitor "My Computer" icon ...
Would this story of avatar creation and computer coding in a sci-fi location be of interest to Danny?  I strongly suspected that it would.  I was also confident that he would be able to grasp – and relish – the analogy being drawn to Life.  Would the words be beyond his reading skills?  Well they were quite a way ahead of Timmy the Goat et al.  On the other had, if he were sufficiently motivated…

It was certainly worth a try.
IMG_20150529_085051 (1)First I drew up a grid, so that polysyllabic words could be written out, broken down into their constituent phonemes and blends.  (See right.)  Then I printed page 1 of the story:


Coran and the Cosmic Computer Game

 A brand new game! Coran was grinning to himself so much that he kept almost bursting into giggles. This was exciting. In fact it was more than exciting.

 He collected his pass and headed for the programming suite. That was where he would meet the programmer who would help him build his avatar and enter The Game.

He looked at the pass. It said he needed to go to Station 4. He headed across to the terminal and was greeted by a tall figure who sat the keyboard.

 “So, it’s nearly your birth-day, Coran,” said the Tall One, with a nod of his head.   “About time for you to do some choosing.”

“Hmm,” said Coran, thinking hard.

 Up where Coran lives, birth-days are not the same as birthdays here. A birth-day there means exactly what it says – the day you will be born!  Now that may seem odd to you, because Coran is already alive, or he couldn’t be saying, “Hmm,” – could he?

 What it means is that Coran is about to be born as a new character in a cosmic computer game. First he needs to select his avatar, which involves making loads of choices, then he will be ready to start playing The Game.

 Coran was trying to decide what sort of character he wanted to be in this game. He’d played it many times before, but this game was so mind-blowingly huge that each attempt could be completely different from all the ones before.

 “Nothing too easy,” he told the Tall One. “I want a real challenge this time. The last game was utterly boring.”

The Tall One smiled to himself and began to type the code on his machine.

“So you want a big challenge, huh?”

 “Definitely,” announced Coran. “My character will  have…”

The title was slow going.  By the end of the second sentence, though, he was reading most words without asking me to lay them out for him on the phoneme grid.  By the end he was barely stumbling on anything.  There were about three words in the whole passage I had to read for him.
He regarded me with wide eyes as he finished.  “I dort it was doin’ to tate me about a hour to read dat,” he said.
“Me too,” I admitted, and we both smiled broadly.
“Dan I read the next bit next time?” he asked.

As I mentioned, with Danny, motivation is everything.  I strongly suspect this is also true of so many of the so-called disaffected or learning-disabled students languishing in our schools.


Analogy 2

In my last post I compared life to a funfair ride and several people mentioned how that analogy worked for them.

Screenshot of ERD - Estrada Real Digital, A So...

So here’s another…

Imagine our souls/higher selves/eternal beings or whatever you wish to call them as a group of eager adventure gamers.  Maybe it takes a bit of imagination, but bear with me.

These eternal aspects of us are addicted to a game called Life.

It’s not surprising.  The game is a totally immersive experience.  To play it, you put on a skin suit and become a character in a drama that you have helped to script.  That doesn’t mean you know what’s going to happen.  As in most action games, you get to choose your character.  You also select fellow players who will act out the parts of the heroes and villains in your game.  You sort out with them before you start the roles each will play, so that you can all gain the most experience from the game. (And yes, that does mean they are not terrible, bad, unkind people, but eternal souls made of light who have willingly agreed to take on these roles – act out a part – to enable you to have adventure, challenge and gain new experience.)
Your avatar starts off as a very young and inexperienced character, because part of the skin suit’s purpose is to give you temporary amnesia: You forget – or almost forget – that you have a life beyond the game.  You forget all the other versions of the game you’ve played as other characters.  As you work through the levels you gain experience and, if you’re playing mindfully, you start to remember that you’re more than just this game character and find yourself able to draw on advice and inspiration from the ‘real’ you.
Of course (as you’ll have noticed) it’s a hugely complex game and I’ve only scratched the surface of it here.  There’s a far more detailed Player’s Guide available in Kindle or paperback editions, which I try not to plug too often, but maybe once in a while is OK, especially at a time of year when many people are buying gifts or looking for ways to spend vouchers 🙂 .

The Amazon Kindle 2

So, here come the plugs:

The link to my US Amazon page, which has details of how to buy either version, plus the cheaper-than-chips Kindle taster is here.
If you’d like to see the UK version, which also has all my reviews and star ratings (Amazon won’t put UK reviews on their US site, and no one in the US has reviewed it yet) go to this link.
If you’re an Amazon hater and would prefer to buy direct from my publisher, head over here.  Oh, and if you follow this link and leave your name and email, you could even win a free copy of the paperback: http://feedaread.com/p/3493/
Available in paperback and Kindle editions

Available in paperback and Kindle editions

Thanks and a Free Mini-Book for You

Big milestone for me this week 🙂

This blog now has over 100 followers!!

Not huge, perhaps, by some standards, but I’m utterly delighted and just wanted to say how much I appreciate these people who have chosen to read my diverse ramblings and, in many cases, to leave comments and ideas.  Thank you!

I’ve made some amazing contacts around the world during my year-and-a-bit of blogging.

lifeisagame-coverTo celebrate, I’m going to give all of you – and anyone else who happens to stray on to this post – a free PDF copy of my very short ebook: LIFE IS A GAME: YOU CREATED IT, complete with snazzy cover by my son – talented graphic designer  Joe Stone.

It currently retails on Amazon sites as a Kindle edition for a modest amount but this version is completely FREE if you  click on >>>>>this link<<<<<.  Please read, print, share or download it as you wish (making sure you include the copyright notice within it, of course).

I really hope those of you who haven’t read it before become intrigued and keen to find out more about the ideas it contains.  I’ll continue to expand on these from time to time on this blog, and of course there’s far more detail in my full length book, LIFE: A PLAYER’S GUIDE.

Believing is seeing?

For much of human history, the fantastical beings from myth and legend were as much a part of people’s lives as the sheep, blackbirds and spiders which also shared their world.

Around 2,000 years ago, a Roman writer called Pliny the Elder, who seems to have been the David Attenborough of his day, wrote a long book describing all the creatures of the Earth.  Some he had seen with his own eyes; others he found out about by reading what earlier writers had said.  It didn’t matter to him whether he’d actually seen them or not.  This was long before the time of the empirical scientists, remember, so observation wasn’t nearly as important as imagination.  He believed totally in all of the creatures he heard of and wrote about.

The Hereford Mappa Mundi, about 1300, Hereford...

The Hereford Mappa Mundi, about 1300, Hereford Cathedral, England. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over a thousand years later, scribes were still faithfully recording and referring to the creatures and beings Pliny had described.  If you ever get the chance to visit the city of Hereford, near the border between England and Wales, pop into the cathedral to take a look at the Mappa Mundi.  It’s the medieval equivalent of Wikipedia and gives a brilliant insight into the way people’s creation worked in those days.  It’s drawn on to a single piece of calfskin, but manages to include a very graphic pictorial account of the day of judgement; a map of the world; a guide to all the main abbeys and cathedrals of the time (it was drawn by a monk, naturally); a short history of the world, and drawings and descriptions of the races and creatures who inhabited it.  These things jumble together in a glorious mix of what we would now call fact and fiction.  The author of the map, though, makes no such distinction.  For him and the people who lived at that time, all these things were aspects of reality.  Time exists all at once on the map and even space is only hinted at.

Hereford Mappa Mundi detail Britainedit

Hereford Mappa Mundi detail (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you stay close to where he has drawn the Mediterranean, the creatures are mostly familiar.  Stray out towards the edges of the map, though, and you’ll discover the Blemyes – headless beings with faces on their chests.  Rubbing shoulders with a rhinoceros are a centaur and a unicorn.  In the desert there is the Race with Protruding Lip, this lip being used as a handy sunshade to protect them from the relentless heat.  There are dragons to the south and Dog-Headed Men in the Arctic.  Many of these beings are taken directly from Pliny’s descriptions – no questions asked; none needed.

We might ask why belief in these wacky creatures kept going for well over a thousand years.  These days, we tend not to believe in dragons or mermaids, let alone the grotesque human mutations shown on the Mappa Mundi.  The ‘Enlightenment’, with all its scientific methods and observation saw to that.  We have grown up believing only in what we see with our own eyes.  Before science held sway, though, there was no need to think that way.  The Hereford map shows us a world where all beliefs and all earthly places and times snuggle up together quite comfortably.  Admittedly it’s rather squashed, but it’s all there.

We think of our ancestors as being rather daft and gullible for believing in those monsters, don’t we?  You wouldn’t catch us putting off a holiday in Scandinavia for fear of running into those dog-headed men – unless we’d seen footage of them on a scientific documentary, of course.

And yet…

Now here’s a thought:  What if those people did see such things?  What if their belief system allowed them to see all manner of wonders?  Maybe being so caught up with finding objective evidence stops us from being able to access a whole range of amazing phenomena.  Just think back to the Indians of the Caribbean who couldn’t see Columbus’ ships.  Wasn’t it because the huge vessels lay outside of their belief system?   I am outside my garden ant’s concept of what is ‘real’, and I’m therefore mostly invisible to it.  Crop circles can only ever be hoaxes to people who don’t believe in them, no matter how quickly they appear or how incredibly complex their designs have become.

Reality has suddenly got even more bendy, hasn’t it?

This is an edited extract from my book Life: A Player’s Guide by Jan Stone.
Available to order from bookshops or as a Kindle or paperback edition on Amazon.

Available in paperback and Kindle editions

Available in paperback and Kindle editions

Creating Your Own Reality

Creation (47/52)

Creation (47/52) (Photo credit: Suus Wansink)

You the Creator

What have you made lately – a model; a cake; a piece of furniture; dinner; a mess…?  I’ll bet you’ve done quite a bit of creating over the last week or so.  And how did you do it?  You got some stuff; you changed it in some way – maybe shaping, or cutting, heating or cooling; you probably mixed it with, or joined it to other stuff and carried on changing or modifying it until your creation was complete.

OK, so you might be protesting that all you did was take a ready-meal out of the freezer, pierce the film lid and put it in the microwave, but you still created a hot, steaming meal out of a frozen lump.  You created something by changing stuff.  Hold that idea.  Hold it nice and tight.  We will return to it.

Dr Frankenstein, I presume?

Humankind has a tendency to blame itself for everything that goes wrong.  Once it was religion that prompted perfectly pleasant, law-abiding people to clamber bare-footed up the longest, steepest, rockiest slopes they could find, wearing nasty, itchy hair shirts, to get forgiveness for what they believed were their terrible sins, and to spend their entire lives in terror of the everlasting torment they felt was more or less inevitable after death.

To the rational scientists, and the philosophers who adopted their way of thinking about life, humans appeared to have all the most brutal and ruthless characteristics of the animal kingdom, without, apparently, any of the grace, wonder and beauty.

Today, we blame ourselves endlessly and exclusively for messing up the planet, despite the fact that climate change and species extinctions have been happening since long before matter started forming itself into humans.

Perfect Flower

We can find beauty and perfection in a flower, a snowflake or a sunset, but give us a mirror and we see only faults.

Maybe it’s just that we sense the hugeness of our own creative powers – and find them very scary.

Without doubt, our skills at creating have been quite awesome.  As you might expect when a few trillion holographic parts of God formed into something with tremendous curiosity, drive and intention – not to mention imagination – the creation really went into overdrive.  From the wheel to the microprocessor, people have created some pretty amazing new stuff.

What have you done?


Let’s move on now to some of the other things YOU created.  Quite definitely, you created sounds.  You might be a musician, who has recently composed a wonderful new song or symphony.  But then perhaps you hummed or whistled a tune or sang along to the radio; that’s still creating sounds.  Of course, your sounds might not have been musical.  There could have been a scream, a sob, a sharp intake of breath or spoken words.  Because we do these things all the time, we take them for granted, but once you stop and recognise how you manipulated and co-ordinated your breath, your tongue, your lips and your larynx to make each single speech sound, you can begin to appreciate what is going on here.

If you’ve used words, it’s more than likely that you have used them to create a situation – a persuasive argument, an angry outburst or an inspiring suggestion, for example.  Any of the above will almost certainly have created feelings – yours and other people’s.  Perhaps you ‘made’ someone happy, wistful, amazed, miserable or furious.  You might have ‘made’ yourself stop and think.

I hope you’re beginning to see by now just how creative you are, even as you jog along doing fairly mundane daily tasks.  You The Creator, as well as making physical stuff, interesting sounds, textures, tastes, and most certainly smells, are also creating ideas and thoughts, feelings and moods, fears and doubts, wishes and hopes.  You are creating them constantly in your own mind, and – by the things you say and do – you are helping to create them in other people’s minds, as well.

How do you do what you do to me?

So let’s stop for a moment and see if we can figure out what is going on while we are creating.  We’ve already discovered that we manipulate matter in various ways to make objects, sounds and smells.  We also recognised that we could create what are commonly called ‘states of mind’.  So what are we actually doing?

Well, all this creation involves using intention, does it not?  Perhaps things didn’t always turn out the way we expected, but we intentionally put the process in motion and caused things to happen.  We also used energy.  It takes energy to create a painting, a compost heap, a brilliant idea or a quarrel.

The way I understand it (and I’m no scientist, remember, so apologies for any bits I’ve got slightly wrong), while they are left to their own devices, the tiny electrons or photons inside your atoms have the potential to be either particles or waves.  Once the scientists start to observe them, though, the wave function apparently collapses; that is to say, they just start behaving like particles.

Dispersion relation

Let’s go over that one more time.  You start with minute little bits – tiny, tiny pieces of something that whiz about in very unexpected ways and have the potential to be particles (stuff) or waves (ways of transferring energy).  That potential remains intact until scientists use observation.  As we know, scientists are very keen on using observation.  They use physical senses and 3D measurements like distance, time and space to see what happens.  It’s not really surprising that their electrons all become particles – things that have mass and can be measured – is it?

Now let’s consider what might really be going on down at that sub-atomic level.  To do so, we need to return to your creative abilities.

Right.  So you are The Creator.  You are playing a Virtual Game which you have created.  By making choices, you are constantly creating your game as you go along.  You are also helping to create other people’s games.

Sometimes you create stuff – physical things made of atoms, which – of course – contain those minute electrons.  In other words, you intentionally move particles of that potential energy around.

Sometimes you create thoughts and ideas; ‘I’ve had a brainwave!’ you exclaim; or, ‘I was caught up in a wave of nostalgia’; or ‘he was overcome by waves of grief’.  You see?  Sometimes you create non-physical stuff – like feelings, desires or fears – by manipulating waves of potential energy.

Scientist using a stereo microscope outfitted ...

So there you have it.  You have two creative functions available to you.  You can use particles of stuff as building blocks for physical creation – making stuff, or you can use waves of energy to produce thoughts.  Those hard-working scientists can observe for all they’re worth, but by staring down a microscope they’re not going to find emotions, ideas or dreams.  There is far more creative potential in those tiny chunks of energy than they have been able to find.


This post is an edited extract from LIFE: A PLAYER’S GUIDE by Jan Stone available from Amazon, from Feedaread.com  or through book shops.






On Sunday I condemned my mother to death

Chalice Well

Chalice Well (Photo credit: greenchartreuse)

Yesterday was challenging – no doubt about it.

Woke up on a (finally) sunny and not too cold spring Sunday and was planning a leisurely stroll to the beautiful Chalice Well Gardens here in Glastonbury.

At 9am my mother’s nursing home phoned: would I get down there immediately, please?  Things were bad.

My mum is 91 and has advanced dementia.  She barely eats, she barely wakes up for more than a few minutes at a time and if she gives a smile of recognition once a month I count myself lucky.  She is lifted around in a hoist from bed to shower to chair and is reliant on the wonderful staff at her home for every bodily need.  She has had numerous ‘near misses’.  I’ve lost count of the number of times doctors have told me to brace myself and prepare for the end, but here we were again.

I arrived in her room to find it bursting with paramedics and equipment.  Mum was fully conscious, with wild, staring eyes.  An oxygen mask was clamped to her face.  She was waving her hand about – apparently trying to shake off the probe or whatever it was attached to a finger.

“She has a chest infection,” one of the ambulance staff explained.  “Her oxygen intake is very low and falling.  She needs to be in hospital and on oxygen if we are to save her, but it’s up to you.  If you’d rather we left her here and let nature take its course we’ll respect your decision.”

Great.  9.15 on a Sunday morning and I was being asked to play God with my mother’s life.  The medics were, understandably, in a hurry.  They needed an instant response.

I fought my way through the forest of pipes and tanks and plastic stuff littering the way and stood with my mum.  Her eyes were still darting about.  She looked petrified.  I remembered the other times I’d been to see her in hospital over the past few years – turned into a human pincushion with drips and masks and whatever, surrounded by strangers.  I imagined the 45 minute journey by ambulance with sirens wailing to the nearest hospital.

Words from Conversations With God rang in my ears: “What would Love do now?”

“No,” I said.  “I’d like her to stay here.”

They nodded.  The mask, the oxygen tank and other equipment were whisked away.  The medics’ final comment was that she probably had less than two hours to live, so I decided to spend those two hours well.

I held her hand, stood where she could see my face and I talked.  I started with our life together – all 62 years of it.  I described the holidays we’d had, the houses we’d lived in, the gardens she’d created.  She was still conscious, still listening after all that, so I went on to talk about her own childhood, her friends, her marriage and anything else that came to mind.

Finally a locum GP arrived.  He said she’d stabilised but quite possibly wouldn’t recover.  He didn’t give a timescale.  He put into place a raft of palliative care that covered every eventuality and would ensure that she suffered minimum distress.

I left her sleeping peacefully several hours later.

Well what would you have done?

At times like this – times when we’re dealing with the very toughest choices and challenges – it can be easy to forget that life is a game designed to expand the universe.  I’m very lucky to have wonderful reminders all around me.

This is one: a post from the excellent Ask The Council blog that magically appeared in my inbox this morning.
Roller Coaster "Python" Theme Park E...Here is another: a post I wrote at the end of last year, dealing with the same question.  It contains the guidance I was ‘given’ when someone else asked me why life is so horribly tough.

Why is my life so rubbish?

About five years ago, a ten year old child in my class wrote me a letter.

‘Why is my life so rubbish?’ it asked.  The writer went on to assure me this was a serious question, to which she really wanted an answer, because she needed to understand.

Let me say for a start that she wasn’t exaggerating.  By most people’s standards, that little girl did have some hugely challenging issues in her life and they kept coming, thick and fast.  I understood, sympathised and promised I’d get back to her as soon as I’d discovered the answer.

I’m still not sure where the answer came from, when it arrived.  All I know is that I took some quiet time to sit down and wait for it, trusting completely that it would come to me, and in a form that a child could understand.  My muse just works like that.

Those of you who have read Life: A Player’s Guide will recognise this explanation as the analogy at the beginning of Part 2.  For those who haven’t, it goes something like this:

Imagine that you were spending a whole day at a theme park.  You could go on as many rides as you liked.  As you entered the park, you noticed a kiddie roundabout playing jingly music and revolving very slowly and safely.  Further on, there were all manner of white-knuckle rides, promising to throw you around, drop you from great heights, scare you witless, soak you to the skin and turn you upside down at considerable speed.

I asked the little girl what she would choose to do.

Her eyes shone.  “I’d want to try out all the scariest rides I could find!” she exclaimed.

“Not the kiddie roundabout, then?”

Her lip curled derisively.  “Wouldn’t bother with that!”

Next I asked her to imagine how her greater self had felt when planning her present lifetime – before she was born.  For that Self, I explained, the game of life is like a trip to the theme park.  Would it choose a lifetime of simply chugging around the kiddie roundabout in a safe, unthreatening existence, or would it be looking for all the wildest, most uncomfortable rides – ones that would test it to the limits, leave it shaking and trembling, allowing it to experience the ultimate in thrills and gain all manner of new experiences?

She nodded, slowly, understanding why some multi-dimensional part of herself had elected to expose her to all those white-knuckle experiences.  They don’t feel too great while we’re in the middle of them, but ultimately, we’re going to stagger away, feeling sick and dizzy, perhaps, but incredibly proud of ourselves for getting through it.

It really does get easier if we can remember that life’s a game.

Connecting to NPCs

“Why do some of those people have floaty lights bobbing about over their heads?” I asked my son, as I watched him playing a computer game.

“They’re called NPCs – Non-Player Characters,” he replied patiently, still managing to move his own avatar swiftly through the crowded medieval street.  “They’re there to help you.  Sometimes if you stop and speak to them they give you useful information, like suggesting where you could go to collect more EXP, or sometimes if you follow them, they lead you to a part of the game you haven’t visited.”

I noticed that he wasn’t stopping to speak to any of them, but I dare say he’d fully explored this part of the game several times before.

In our game – Life – those special characters don’t often  have shiny things dancing over their heads.  They have another way of getting our attention.  Usually they do it by getting in our face and making it hard for us to ignore them.  Since we haven’t (or not as far as we remember) played this part of the game before, it would make sense to stop and listen to them, wouldn’t it?  Maybe they’re going to show or teach us something we need to know…

I had an encounter with one yesterday.

I was in Bristol – a busy, bustling city in South West England.  I’d been Christmas shopping and the weather was not great.  In fact, by the time I reached the steep narrow alley that leads from the shopping centre up to the bus station, I was tired, windswept, wet and – above all – cold.  My one thought was that I wanted to get into the shelter as soon as possible and on to my warm, comfortable no. 376 bus.  I’d been skillfully weaving my way through the hordes of pedestrians, with an impressive turn of speed, when I came up against my NPC.

In front of me was this small, wide figure, moving ridiculously slowly.  She had two large bags of shopping in each hand and these were held out to the sides, so that it was almost impossible to get past.  Seeing a small gap, I moved to the left.  With immaculate timing but never a backward glance she veered in that direction, blocking my path.  I headed right.  Instantly she tottered over that way and again I was blocked.  I felt my frustration and anger starting to build.  As I made a final sharp twist to the left, she quite suddenly stopped right in front of me and put the bags down, bending over and gasping for breath.  At this point, she looked back and noticed me.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, dear.  I must be slowing you up.”  She hauled the bags to the side and gestured to me to pass.

Ah, but you see I’d done it now – I’d stopped and listened to her.  And yes, she did have something valuable to teach me.  This encounter moved me beyond my narrow desire to reach my next goal, and expanded my perception a bit.  Now I was seeing this fellow shopper – quite a bit older than me, also cold, wet and tired and struggling to carry four huge and heavy bags up this steep path.

I relaxed, smiled and offered to take a couple of her bags up to the bus station for her.  We carried on – at her pace – chatting as we went.  By the time we’d reached the top of the alley, I knew all about her six grandchildren and the Manchester United pyjamas she’d wanted for one of them and been unable to find anywhere.

As I returned her bags and we parted, I noticed that although the weather remained the same, I no longer felt cold.

Facebook – when is a ‘friend’ a friend?

OK, I’ll admit it, I’m probably the world’s last convert to Facebookism.

For years I’d held out against it.  I’d insisted that ‘liking’ someone or something was an emotional response, not a cute little thumbs-up symbol; that a friend was someone I cared about, related to and interacted with, not someone I’d never met who clicked a button in order to build their virtual popularity.

I was dragged, kicking and screaming almost, into opening a facebook account.  “It’ll help you publicise the book,” the (real) friends told me.  “It will drive sales.”

So I relented.  I joined.  Initially my worst fears materialised. (Fears tend to behave that way, of course, since we create our own reality, but my guard was down – I’d forgotten that!)  I was carpet-bombed with banal posts about the drinking and partying exploits of people I barely knew, I was exposed to the angst-ridden adolescent ramblings of  ex-pupils and I was approached to befriend people I didn’t know from Adam.

Then something quite amazing happened.  A genuine pre-Facebook friend began sending posts.  They were wise, profound, intelligent and thought-provoking.  She invited me to join a group and suddenly I was virtually meeting all manner of people who behaved the way my sort of friends do.  They sent personal messages and we started to get to know each other.  It was beginning to feel like a community … and I understood.

Yes, Facebook is a virtual, 2D version of friendship, but that doesn’t make it any less real.  All experience is real! We respond to this incredible world around us in all manner of ways – face to face is just one of them.  I’ve now found yet another way to interact with it.

So feel free to become my friend – real, virtual or both – and if you’d like to follow me, you’re very, very welcome.  I’ll do my best to lead somewhere worth going.