Photo by Ivan Bandura on Unsplash

Life can be dispiriting at times. We put huge effort into an endeavour (art, music, love, work) for it to go nowhere at all. Or we find ourselves toiling away, creating, building, refining, and then have only a modicum of success. Neither seems to match the blood, sweat and tears we’ve expended.

I was reminded of this when I came across a receipt for concrete. I know, not an obvious wellspring of inspiration. Some years ago my husband and I built a kitchen extension. It wasn’t big, but enough to drain our finances for some time. Extensions need foundations and…


Growing up in the 1970s, I was fed a diet of BBC children’s programmes like Bagpuss and The Clangers. If you’re unfamiliar with them, please allow me a short childhood reminiscence.

Bagpuss was first shown in 1974 — the story of a magical cloth cat that came alive. Every episode a young girl, Emily, would wake up Bagpuss and give the cat a mysterious object she had found. Bagpuss would then raise his friends from their slumbers to come and help: Professor Yaffle, Gabriel the Toad and the mice from the Mouse Organ. …


Guts are having a renaissance. It’s 2021 and it’s now perfectly acceptable to bring them up in conversation. Look in the bookshop window and the shelves are groaning with guts. The gastrointestinal tract is merely a 4.5 metre tube, yet it’s the most densely populated spot on the planet. A place that 100 trillion microbes call home, housing 300–1000 different species, which together weigh in at around 2kg. That’s heavier than a brain. Our gut biomes are also rich in genetic information — the human genome has 23,000 genes yet the microbiome has over three million. …


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…

Charlotte Sheridan

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

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