Collective nouns do what they say on the tin — they’re the names for collection of things, like a herd of cows, a hive of bees or a pride of lions. These are easy ones that a five-year old would know. Here are more everyday examples: a fleet of ships, a panel of experts, a pod of dolphins, a board of directors, a gaggle of geese, or a host of angels.

But then things get more complicated. A gaggle of geese refers to geese on the ground. Geese in flight? Well, that’s a skein. We all know bananas come in…

The time we spend thinking about something often doesn’t match its importance in our lives. If we parked all our worries in a line, they would stretch to the horizon. When is the ‘eat by’ date of the yoghurt? Did I use the wrong title on the presentation? Should I smile more at the check-out assistant?

Anxieties follow us into the night. A common one is the “unprepared-for-exam” dream. We turn over the page to face three hours of algebra and then wake up in a panic. How often does that happen in real life? Often, I guess, if we’re…

Count the number of times I’ve included Japan in my blog posts and you’d think I was in love with the place. Japan appears every few weeks — here on regrets, here on career advice, this on the power of words, one on having a calling and here on the strength of letting go. I use the word “appearing” as I’m not doing this intentionally. Japan seems to be conjuring itself up before my eyes. Whilst Japan has just 1.6% of the world’s population, it’s expanding and filling my mind.

I’m turning Japanese, I think I’m turning Japanese, I really…

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

The author of this saying is lost to the mists of time, although it’s routinely attributed to The Buddha, the Chinese text The Confucian Analects, The Theosophics, or even Tao Te Ching (in a longer form): “when the student is ready the teacher will appear. When the student is truly ready, the teacher will disappear.

Here’s a contemporary riff on it by a Tibetan teacher: “You don’t need to go looking for the teacher. As soon as you’re ready, the teacher will look for you.” No matter its source, it’s still…

Who doesn’t love a horror film? Me actually, but many people do. Why do we snuggle up on the sofa to watch gore? Why do we invite terror into our homes? Isn’t life stressful enough anyway?

Christian Jarrett wrote about this in The Psychologist magazine. “Fear coils in your stomach and clutches at your heart. It’s an unpleasant emotion we usually do our best to avoid. Yet across the world and through time people have been drawn irresistibly to stories designed to scare them.”

As he says, seeking out terror isn’t new. Take the Old English poem “Beowulf,” from around…

The expression “two sides of the same coin” refers to things that seem different but are actually related; tragedy and comedy for example or love and hate. According to The Cambridge Dictionary “violent behaviour and deep insecurity are often two sides of the same coin.” The Longman Dictionary has “great opportunity and great danger are two sides of the same coin.”

It’s strange, isn’t it? Things that are poles apart seem to be deeply connected. An invisible force that pushes them away but binds them together. There’s a well-known phrase: “never let a good crisis go to waste.” …

Gaussian Curve is the name of a music trio — an Italian, a Dutchman and a Scot. I’m not starting with a culturally insensitive joke though. The direction I want to take is a mathematical one; the statistical Gaussian Curve from where the band takes its name.

A Gaussian Curve describes the normal distribution of things, like intelligence, height, or weight. You may recognise it as a Bell Curve below. In 1986, McCormick, Walkey and Green looked at how drivers rated themselves on skill level and risk taking in their driving. They tested 178 people and 80% said they were…

“’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

Jabberwocky, by Lewis Carroll, 1871

Words are funny things. They’re a jumble of letters and sounds which intrinsically don’t mean anything. A few words are onomatopoeiac – the ones that sound like the things they describe, such as “oink”, “meow” or “tick tock.” But mostly letters and meaning just crash into each other by chance. In another world a reindeer would be a rainbow, salad a skyscraper and dogfish a dance. …

Margaret Thatcher was the UK’s Prime Minister from 1979–1990. In her party’s October 1980 conference, she said: “You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning!” She was hitting back at those who wanted to force her hand, to get her to change her mind. She stood firm, despite the concern that the policies she advocated might negatively impact the economy and peoples’ livelihoods.

Today I want to do the opposite of a “Maggie.” I want to announce a wholehearted, complete and utter U-turn. This lady is definitely for turning. So, what’s prompting my public about-turn? …

John Mcarthur, Unsplash

“I work all night, I work all day, to pay the bills I have to pay, ain’t it sad
And still there never seems to be a single penny left for me, that’s too bad”

ABBA, 1976

Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid grafted for decades before they made it. Their break came in 1974 at the Eurovision Song Contest. They never looked back. ABBA went on to be one of the most commercially successful bands in pop, selling over 150 million records across the globe.

But the path to success is strewn with boulders. Their original name was unimaginative and…

Charlotte Sheridan

Psychologist, coach, writer, photographer… juggling them all but often dropping balls.

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