Tag Archives: listening


15 Apr


My friend said to me “I saw this, and I thought of you”. This little treasure resonates. I am a survivor having reinvented myself following my own personal holocaust with this man’s help. I shall not name him, out of respect, for he too is a survivor.

My friend listened to my diseased ramblings for the best part of 10 years on a regular basis as part of my journey back from mental illness. He really listened; to all the bollocks, whining, mithering, self absorption, narcissicm, bullshit and tedious solepsistic repetition of my life history, and over time sifted out the treasure and passed it back to me. Like panning for gold.

His particular gift of listening – without passing comment or judgement – is rare. His prodigious memory helped him to turn what I had said over in his mind, and when the time was right, feed it back to me like showing me a crystal mirror. Each time this happened I found some clarity, moving away from madness. I stepped away from creating that ‘self-made tomb’ from my own holocaust.

Survivors of The Holocaust speak of having to talk about their experience. Please rest assured I make absolutely no comparison between my own puny experience to their profound witness, merely the subject of ‘listening’. Holocaust survivors talk not as catharsis, but out of respect to the millions of kinfolk that did not survive, to honour their memory. It is a deeply moving aural tradition, we need to listen to them in order to hear the scratching and snickering of our own demons and by understanding them, learn to quell them.

Listening honours not only the speaker, for it builds trust and then respect: Listening offers the opportunity to learn to listen in return. It is an honourable gift.

BiPolar disorder is fabled for its manifestation in the ‘hyper’ phase of behavioural symptoms such as arrogance, vaulting hubris and generally – ‘not listening’. As one shrink said to my wife “Why would Henk listen? When he knows better than everyone else.”

Nowadays I find it more fun to just listen.

My wife runs a quirky little tea shop called ‘Tea with Percie‘, which gives me much needed practice.

In it you will find peace, gentleness, food and coffee and the finest of leaf teas. It takes time to make a proper pot of tea and a decent fresh sandwich. It is worth waiting for the home made quiche or soup, or the special of the day. Anyone in a rush wanting chips may need to find a different sort of establishment. In this tea shop you will find that people make time to listen and appreciate time just passing by.



18 May

I always look a grumpy old sod when I am concentrating. In fact in this reflection I am rather pleased with myself having just completed a commission for clients who are about to wed.


The clients’ brief was to make a mirror which was both ‘rustic’ and ‘smart’. I managed to find some wind blown elm wood and settled on a simple ‘gate’ design of cross pieces with gentle waney (natural) edges on the outside of the frame and clean, straight edges framing the mirror. The clients were happy with the design which is a good thing – I was aiming to bridge the gap between two very disparate tastes: robust and chunky vs lean and clean.

If marriage is the consummation of love, then a design brief is an invitation to the dance. Clients often have strong views about what it is they want you to make, but have little understanding of how this can be achieved. The important thing is to ‘move’ with the client’s lead and feel the music of their desire.

My mum always said: “C’est le ton qui fait la musique!” Meaning, ‘it is not what you say that counts, but the way in which you say it’. A smart rebuke for the smart-Alec little boy that I was. But I like the sense of it, because listening is the key to understanding.

Most people hear what is said, but don’t always listen attentively to the meaning of the words. Just as a reflection is a poor, two dimensional, inverted facsimile of the viewer, so a conversation can be either a dull exchange of everyday observations – where neither party listens, or a nuanced and rich exchange of ideas.

Rustic, but smart – that’s what I like.