A Favourite Poem – Invictus

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
for my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gait,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

In Latin Invictus, meaning “unconquerable” or “undefeated” is a poem by William Ernest Henley. (Henley was a lifelong atheist, and, with his missing leg and braggadocio, he was also the inspiration for the character of Long John Silver in Robert Louis Stephenson’s Treasure Island.

This poem is about courage in the face of death, and holding on to one’s own dignity despite the indignities life places before us.
The poet William Ernest Henley would likely have been familiar with one or both of these sources. He bows to no authority. He is his own god, guide and judge. He is the Captain.

This Story has always Interested Me

Praying Hands 

Albrecht Duhrer –  Praying Hands

Back in the fifteenth century, in a tiny village near Nuernberg, lived a family with eighteen children. Eighteen! In order merely to keep food on the table for this mob, the father and head of the household, a goldsmith by profession, worked almost eighteen hours a day at his trade and any other paying chore he could find in the neighborhood.

Despite their seemingly hopeless condition, two of Albrecht Dührer the Elder’s children had a dream. They both wanted to pursue their talent for art, but they knew full well that their father would never be financially able to send either of them to Nuernberg to study at the Academy. After many long discussions at night in their crowded bed, the two boys finally worked out a pact. They would toss a coin. The loser would go down into the nearby mines and, with his earnings, support his brother while he attended the academy. Then, when that brother who won the toss completed his studies, in four years, he would support the other brother at the academy, either with sales of his artwork or, if necessary, also by laboring in the mines.

They tossed a coin on a Sunday morning after church. Albrecht Dührer won the toss and went off to Nuernberg. Albert went down into the dangerous mines and, for the next four years, financed his brother, whose work at the academy was almost an immediate sensation. Albrecht’s etchings, his woodcuts, and his oils were far better than those of most of his professors, and by the time he graduated, he was beginning to earn considerable fees for his commissioned works.

When the young artist returned to his village, the Dürer family held a festive dinner on their lawn to celebrate Albrecht’s triumphant homecoming. After a long and memorable meal, punctuated with music and laughter, Albrecht rose from his honored position at the head of the table to drink a toast to his beloved brother for the years of sacrifice that had enabled Albrecht to fulfill his ambition. His closing words were, “And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you.”

All heads turned in eager expectation to the far end of the table where Albert sat, tears streaming down his pale face, shaking his lowered head from side to side while he sobbed and repeated, over and over, “No …no …no …no.”

Finally, Albert rose and wiped the tears from his cheeks. He glanced down the long table at the faces he loved, and then, holding his hands close to his right cheek, he said softly, “No, brother. I cannot go to Nuernberg. It is too late for me. Look … look what four years in the mines have done to my hands! The bones in every finger have been smashed at least once, and lately I have been suffering from arthritis so badly in my right hand that I cannot even hold a glass to return your toast, much less make delicate lines on parchment or canvas with a pen or a brush. No, brother … for me it is too late.”

More than 450 years have passed. By now, Albrecht Dührer’s hundreds of masterful portraits, pen and silver-point sketches, watercolors, charcoals, woodcuts, and copper engravings hang in every great museum in the world, but the odds are great that you, like most people, are familiar with only one of Albrecht Durer’s works. More than merely being familiar with it, you very well may have a reproduction hanging in your home or office.

One day, to pay homage to Albert for all that he had sacrificed, Albrecht Dürer painstakingly drew his brother’s abused hands with palms together and thin fingers stretched skyward. He called his powerful drawing simply “Hands,” but the entire world almost immediately opened their hearts to his great masterpiece and renamed his tribute of love “The Praying Hands.”

The next time you see a copy of The Praying Hands, take a second look. Let it be your reminder, if you still need one, that no one – no one – – ever makes it alone!

70 Years of Christmas Day

70 Christmas’s and some of the events during my lifetime.

 1944 – The Year I was Born

25 December – The snow lay white again upon the stony soil of New England, the grey distances of the plains, the towering Western mountains; once more poinsettias bloomed in the South’s red soil. In Boston’s fabled Louisburg Square, and in every other U.S. city and hamlet, carolers would sing this week below candlelit windows. This would be the fourth U.S. wartime Christmas.

1954 – 10 years old

25 December – Prestwick air disaster: BOAC Boeing 377 Stratocruiser G-ALSA crashes on landing at Prestwick Airport from London in poor visibility at 03:30, killing 28. The first UK Wimpy Bar is opened at the Lyons Corner House in Coventry Street, London

1964 – 20 years old

25 December – The Queen’s Christmas Broadcast in 1964 addressed the important role of the Commonwealth in a year in which anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela was jailed in South Africa, and Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru died.

1974 – 30 years old

25 December – Early in the morning of December 25 the Territory’s capital city – Darwin – was destroyed by Cyclone Tracy. The city became the site of possibly the greatest natural disaster in the nation’s history causing the mass evacuation south of three-quarters of the city’s 43,000 people.

1984 – 40 years old

25 December – was a Tuesday. Ronald Reagan was President of the US; people were listening to Madonna singing ‘Like A Virgin’, while in the UK ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ was in the top five in the charts. Boxcar Bertha directed by Martin Scorsese was a hit in the cinemas, and ‘Talisman’ by Stephen King and Peter Straub was a best selling book.

1991 – 47 years old

25 December – In this Christmas 1991 Mikhael S. Gorbachev resigned as president of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). This action was the final act in a peaceful dissolution of this communist (socialist) nation that had been borne out of the October 1917 revolution, and the start of the new Russian Federation

It was also the first Christmas we spent with our beautiful Son, Oscar

1994 50 years old

25 December – Scottie Pippen scored 36 points and grabbed 16 rebounds for a Christmas Day win over the New York Nicks. At 11.05 am the BBC in UK showed ‘Jetsons’ The Movie Premier and cinema version of the sci-fi cartoon series. And at 10.40 The Morcambe and Wise Christmas Show with guests Shirley Bassey, Glenda Jackson, Andre Previn, Michael Parkinson and Eddie Waring among others.

2004 – 60 years old

Coronation Street – Episode 5923 Steve tries to get near the burning car to rescue Amy; Tracy convinced that Karen killed Amy, jumps in Steve’s car and drives off like a woman possessed. Tracy runs Karen over in Steve’s Car. Karen manages to scramble up the factory steps and bangs on the door. Hayley who’s mending Claire’s dress lets her in. Tracy, wielding a crook-lock forces her way in after Karen, threatening to kill her. Steve’s relieved to find that Amy’s safe and sound with Roy. Steve arrives at the factory and tells Tracy that Amy’s safe, but Tracy doesn’t believe him, thinking he’s just trying to save Karen from her fate. Tracy and Karen continue to fight on the factory floor….etc.

2014 -70 years old

25 December – Former president George H. W. Bush has greeted Christmas Day in a Texas hospital, where he remained for a second night after experiencing breathing problems. Queen Elizabeth uses her Christmas message to pay tribute to medical and aid volunteers fighting the Ebola epidemic around the world. A university in north-western China bans Christmas, calling it a “kitsch” foreign celebration unbefitting of the country’s own traditions.

2024 – I’ll be 80 years old and I can’t predict what 25th December will bring, though I’m optimistic as always.

Some Days are Diamonds

Today will be a diamond

My sister told me recently, that grief is the price we pay for love, and what a heavy price it is proving to be.

Memories of better days stream through my mind, as the pictures on the wall and the cards and messages from family and friends remind me constantly of how much Nancy meant to me and to Oscar.

Some days are diamonds and some days are stone, yet, we still manage to get through each 24 hours that each day presents.

I look at Oscar and wonder what is in store for him, for he has so much to look forward to. His new home construction is almost complete, and he’ll move in in Mid October, and be excited and perhaps overwhelmed at the extra work and financial changes that come with owning a home. Perhaps he’ll quickly find the ideal partner he deserves, and raise a family, and tell his children stories about his life, his parents and his ambitions and aspirations. I hope so, for they will be very interesting stories.

Our New Family Oscar aged 5What will Nessa think? How will she cope with the changes? So much unconditional love she displays, and I don’t know if dogs feel loss as we do, and if they do they wear it better than I’m doing right now. Nessa still has a regular routine, and I can learn a lot from that.

My favourite thingsI suppose I’m luckier than most, for I’m a Toastmaster with a wide circle of friends here and around the world, and I get invites to visit. I’m a neighbour who knows so many others in my neighbourhood and can hold conversations on a regular basis. I’m a friend with other friends who have suffered similar loss to mine, and where before I could only sympathise, I can now empathise, for I feel what they must have felt at the time and what they are feeling now.

All Pics and Videos on Camera 054I’ve got my work, which allows me the freedom to connect, communicate and maybe influence others to embrace change, take risks and develop better their underutilized human potential, as my mentors did for me. I hope, my work has enabled and influenced others.

Me and Dan on 11 June 2015Finally, I’ve got today-AFL Grand Final Day, here in Victoria at the MCG- and a chance to meet with friends, holler at the TV screen, and forget for a few hours the trials and tribulations, that losing a loved one entails.

Today will be a diamond, and you my friends have helped in it’s creation. Thank you so, so much.

How Toastmasters has Helped Me

We Serve ourselves best when we serve others 90 compression 

David Hughes DTM – The Journey to being the best I can be

Originally from North Wales, I migrated to Australia from Britain in 1973, and discovered Toastmasters thirteen (13) years later. It was a wonderful discovery and has helped me enormously.

Dedicated and Committed to being the best I can be as a Toastmaster, I’m also a Workshop Presenter, Speaker; Story Teller, Nlp practitioner, Memory Magician, and E-published writer.

I believe, all successful people have one quality in common – the ability to communicate effectively, and I fervently believe it is important to develop this ability in life so that we may successfully meet the demands and challenges of today’s world, and have credibility, influence and impact when engaging with audiences everywhere

My incredible Toastmasters journey began in 1986, when I joined to overcome my rapid speech problem; as I spoke very quickly, creating difficulty for my listeners.

My manager-at the time- suggested I join Toastmasters, as he believed Toastmasters would help me slow down when speaking, and they certainly did. Over time my speaking rate reduced, from the sometimes, unintelligible, 200-300 words per minute to my now credible and very comfortable 100-150 wpm.

After 6 years of regularly attending, and periods as Club and District Officer, and having mastered the intricacies of pace, pitch and pause, and improved gestures and eye contact, I became a competent Toastmaster (CTM), had some excellent Mentors, and eventually enjoyed every speaking opportunity believing my audiences appreciated and enjoyed my speeches and presentations.

I left Toastmasters in 1992, to pursue business interests, and after a 16 year break, returned in 2008.   Since then, I’ve served as Club Officer, Area Governor (2) and Division Governor. In 2012 I achieved DTM, and also in that year was Division Governor of the Year in District 73.

Today, I like to think of myself as a servant-leader, who enjoys being a DTM,REP Ambassador, VPE & Treasurer of my club, and conducting Workshops at District Convention and at Semi-Annual Conferences over time.

My wide circle of Toastmaster friends in Australia and around the world is testament to my interest, curiosity and thirst for cultural exchange with as many Toastmasters as possible, in and with our International organisation and those members who make it the place ‘Where Leaders Are Made.’

Whenever I’m home I enjoy the love of family, reading good books, the freedom to explore the world via the internet and social media, music, friends, and the knowledge that all that I am, was helped enormously by a mentoring manager who once suggested that I join Toastmasters.

“We Serve Ourselves Best When We Serve Others.”

View from my kitchen windowDavid Hughes

Email: icandowords@gmail,com

Web: ICanDoWords.com

Twitter: @icandodave

Simple poems for simple souls

My Ode to Snacks

Snacks are lovely, Snacks are nice,

I eat them often, I never think twice,

Sometimes it’s chocolate, Sometimes its’ chips,

Sometimes its crackers: with my favourite dips.

 

Whenever I’m peckish or needing a lift,

I look in the pantry, or my lolly dish,

There’s toffee and liquorice; chocolate and chew,

With wrappings of red; green, yellow and blue.

 

I eat them at lunchtime and often at night,

Or watching the cricket, or needing a bite,

I eat them for comfort, for feeling ok,

My lollies are friends I eat every day.

 

David Hughes 2012©

Dananjaya Hettiarachchi WCPS is coming

Sometimes opportunity taps you on the shoulder, and makes you an offer you cannot refuse. It happened to me in Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre on Saturday 23rd August 2014. That was the day I joined with more than 2000 of my Toastmaster colleagues from around the world, to listen to the nine finalists in the World Championship of Public Speaking. The speeches were the best of the best as judged by contemporaries over a series of Club, Area, Division, District and Region Finals, held annually. 30,000 hopefuls from over 120 countries start the journey, and one of these is crowned World Champion.

In 2014-15, that honour was bestowed on Dananjaya Hettiarachchi, from Sri Lanka, Dananjaya is a remarkable speaker and his “I See Something…” speech, engaged and touched the audience so much, that their applause and standing ovation, almost lifted the roof off the Convention Centre. It was a magical moment, and I was lucky enough to be in the audience. Lucky I was too, later when walking through the lobby, to meet and have a picture taken with Dan. In a brief conversation Dan mentioned that he’d never been to Australia, and would someday like to visit for a holiday.

That brief conversation, lead to me chatting with a mutual friend from Sri Lanka -Ruwan- who passed on a message to Dananjaya that I would try to find a way to bring him Down-under to speak at an event here. Well, as they say “the rest is history”, for on the evening of 2nd June 2015, Dananjaya will touch down at Tullamarine Airport, and start a nine day trip which will fulfill his wish to come to Australia, and fulfill our desire to meet, see and hear again the World Champion.

As I mentioned when opening this blog, sometimes opportunity taps us on the shoulder and makes an offer we cannot refuse. Well, opportunity knocked on 23rd August and I found the offer irresistible. If you are at the International arrivals gate at the airport on 2nd June 2015, look for a man wearing the biggest smile of all, as he welcomes a Toastmaster, a friend and the World Champion of Public Speaking to Australia.

The SPA Philosophy – Two

The SPA Philosophy (Socrates,Plato and Aristotle). Part 2

The Greeks on Virtue

According to Aristotle-He was Plato’s pupil- as to other Greek thinkers, being a good person and knowing right from wrong, is not primarily a matter of understanding and applying certain morals and Principles. Rather, it is a question of being or becoming the kind of person who, by acquiring wisdom through proper practice and training, will habitually behave in appropriate ways in the appropriate circumstances. In short, having the right kind of character and dispositions, natural and acquired, issues in the right kind of behaviour.

The dispositions in question are virtues.

From ’50 Philosophy ideas – you really need to know’ by Ben Dupre

My Greek & Roman SPA (Socrates, Plato & Aristotle)

In the workshops I run, on Memory Magic I like to use Mnemonics to help participants to hook ideas.

Mnemosyne was the Greek Goddess of Memory, and one of the ways I teach is to use Memory palaces, first used by Simonides. As a speaker and workshop presenter, memory is very important to me.

I also like philosophy, particularly my SPA Philosophy  and study it frequently. Here is a short passage you might ponder.

THE PRIMACY OF THE GOOD

Nearly everyone at some time faces the question. What constitutes the good life? Some answer that the good in life is pleasure, others that it is observance of duties and obligations, still others that it is obedience to divine commands. Against all these Socrates had contended that what makes our life good is just being a good person–a virtuous person. Plato agreed though he struggles to find a convincing justification for the idea.

Excerpt from ‘Coffee With Plato’ by Donald R. Moor

Saturday turns into Sunday

Up early at 6.30 am for a A Big Saturday and early Sunday morning. I attended Toastmasters District 73 Leadership meeting, then District Exec. Meeting, and was good to catch up with all the team. Such Enthusiasm is heartwarming stuff.

Later a couple of light ales at the Limerick Arms, with fun, fast food and frivolity, before farewelling friends from Vic and South Australia. A smooth drive home, picking up Fish and Chips on the way, and lovely to get home at 8.00 pm, and be in the warm comfort of my two lovely ladies, Nancy and Nessa.

Oscar was out with friends, so a little TV, computer work and a cat nap. A premonition told me not to go to bed too early, and just as well for at 12.40 am Sunday, the phone rang and it was my #1 Son, asking to be picked up in Mornington.

Now I’m home again and it’s 1.41 am. So endeth another fabulous 19 hour chapter in the kingdom of David. A marvellous time in a wonderful life.