Doctor, doctor – and why you need a life mentor

Katherine Hough suffered from mysterious pains when she was in her teens and these continued on when she was at University. They ranged from ailments such as stomach pains, but then progressed on to more serious issues like chronic fatigue, joint pain, and even hair falling out before she visited the GP. The diagnosis of the GP was that she had an iron excess in her body, which is due to a faulty gene, and affects around 250,000 in the United Kingdom.

Should she have gone to the GP sooner? This is one of the questions that most of us will debate on a regular basis. When we suffer from ill health, should we go to the doctor immediately, or wait and see if it goes away? No doubt we will have heard of stories of individuals whose health took a marked turn after they were diagnosed late for serious health issues, but put off the initial warning signs as part of life’s niggles. For example, if you suffer from aching pains in joints, and lack of energy, you might just put it down to stresses at work or events in your life, and you might have to tough it out for a little while and hope it goes away. After all, who wants to go to the GP just for a cold, something that you yourself know is best dealt with by rest and paracetamol if necessary? It is a difficult balance to know when exactly one should hold off going to the doctor’s and when to go immediately. Most of us err on the side of caution, and perhaps while it might be seen as being overly precautionary, it might be a good thing to do if you feel unwell, instead of toughing it out and letting a symptom develop into a bigger one.

Perhaps what is needed is someone who you can speak to and who can offer advice. Perhaps someone who has gone through the same anxieties as you have can show you the balance – when to see a doctor, and when it is nothing serious: it is better than you reading a book and trying to diagnose yourself from the symptoms described. It is the same with learning a skill such as playing the piano. Someone who has been there can show you how to navigate the uncertainties, when to persist, when to give up, and counsel you on how you are feeling and if it is normal, and offer inspiration when you are down. As a Piano Teacher in N8 describes, the multiplicity of skills can be disheartening at times. A mentor in life may be the best medicine!

Anchors as useful reference points

If you were asked this off-hand: how many people are there on the planet? What would your estimate be? Seven billion? Eight billion? Chances are that this would have been a piece of general knowledge you are well accustomed with, so the answer would be on the tip of your tongue. But what if you were asked a question you did not know the answer to? Would you fib a response, meaning that you would fudge an answer and try to pass it off as a truth?

I suppose it would really depend on the situation. If your boss asked you if a particular report or piece of work had been finished – and usually the case would have been “no”, or else the boss would have got it already and need not have asked – then would you say “Yes, let me just print it off and bring it to you”, or would you admit, “No, I have still have another bit that I have not finished because last night I preferred to watch Netflix instead of taking my work home with me and working for free for this corporate company”?

We often fudge answers as a form of cover up. Do we really need to cover up? In a work situation, where our image is fairly important – you must be seen to be doing the work and not just be coasting by doing the bare minimum for the most pay, which is what most of us would probably prefer to do – then it is likely these forms of cover up and fudging exist in the work place. It is very much a case of “ready, fire and aim” rather than in a logical sequence. And sometimes the acknowledgement of the cover up is conveniently sidestepped by a half truth, such as “I’m dealing with it.” But the problem with these sorts of explanations is that the half truths catch up with you eventually.

What can we teach our children? We should show them how sometimes the acknowledgement of imperfection is a stage in the growing process. Learning to speak the truth instead of fudging a negative response is better in the long term. It also reflects that the child is doing some mental evaluation of his or her own abilities and strengths. Acknowledging this provides a useful starting point of reference, that forms the basis of future experiences – what is commonly called an anchor. (For more other child related posts particularly with reference to music education, see the Piano Teachers N8 website.)

Having a anchor that is well-defined sets a child off on the correct path in life. Of course, we have to set examples and drop anchors all our life!

Changes in social practices

Do you enjoy shopping? Most of us would probably say that we spend money online and the feeling of purchasing and control gives us an immediate buzz. To the hunter gatherer instincts, it sounds like we have successful ambushed a kill when we use our credit cards to get what we wanted. But online shopping is one thing. What about high street shopping? You know, the one where you actually have to get active and move around, looking for the things you want? It is effortful and perhaps less enjoyable. The amount of time and effort spent trudging along makes it a disagreeable process.

And one of the forms of shopping that many of us are likely to find uninteresting is grocery shopping. Is it because of the repetitive nature of food shopping, that we have to do it so often? After all, familiarity breeds contempt, and our dislike from it may stem from doing it again and again. Or perhaps it is because we find it somewhat soul destroying to decide which multipack of toilet rolls work out cheapest?

And what if supermarkets asked you to pay first before you bought any item, and then refunded you any unused credit? You may think this is a crazy idea, but it is what some fuel service stations at ASDA supermarkets trialled. The rationale was that it would avoid theft, drivers leaving without paying, but the scheme was soon stopped.

Drivers were charged an initial fee to use the pumps, then paid for their purchases, and had to ensure that their initial fee was refunded to them. The reason for this unusual three-step purchase was to make it difficult for fuel theft, where drivers drive onto forecourts, fill up and then disappear without having paid for their fuel.

Fuel theft is on the rise, and investigating these cases takes up a lot of police time, which detracts from the real work of policing.

On the face of it, what it amounts to is paying in advance as a form of guarantee or security. While we may balk at the idea of an advancce payment at a service station, we already do it in other areas. We pay for school activities a term in advance. Most schools such as piano schools charge you a term in fees (although if you were looking for piano lessons in Hornsey N8, this visiting teacher doesn’t). The downpayment ensures they can do the payment for overheads they are likely to purchase in the course of providing these services.

Social media and the public use of phones have become ubiquitous from non-existent two decades ago. Perhaps putting downpayments in advance may be a social practice of the future.


Have you heard of the latest term to take the social world by storm? The most trending word in the Twittersphere is “manspreading”, referring to the commonly seen action of a man sat down and opening his legs wide open, as well as opening up the upper half of his body by pushing the elbows out and resting on the armrests on both sides. Now it is pretty clear from public transport that armrests are not actually for the purpose of putting your arms on; otherwise there would be two side by side. They are actually there simply to mark out the space between commuters, so a person who puts his elbows out on one is actually already crossing an unmentioned social line.

Manspreading is a common occurrence on many daily commutes but it begs the reason why people do it? It probably stems from insecurity. A person who worries about being encroached upon decides to take up more space so that there is some left when another person comes to claw back the remaining fifty percent of the armrest. Some also speculate that it is a sign of cocky confidence, to sit like a slouched king. Some people point to supposed medical reasons – it prevents the male testes from overheating and lowering sperm count. Whatever the reason, it appears that people just simply want more of what they need.

What can you do if you are a victim of manspreading? When someone sits in the seat next to you and opens out wide? Most of us are too polite to make a remark, which is why people go out and do it in the first place. And commenting on a person’s body, especially if the person is fat, seems like bullying. If you are victim, you can do this – as you get up at your stop to leave, deliberately swing your bag into what is really your entitled social space. Give the offender a whack. And don’t apologise for it. After all, he’s in your space.

Sometimes people go out of their way to be deliberately rude. The Classical composer Johannes Brahms seemed to make it a point of being rude and curt to others in his later years (you can read more about this in the N8 Piano Teachers website, and he was even said to be a cat-slayer!

What is the useful lesson we can take from these and impart to our children? It may well be to show consideration to others in a world that is increasingly so(cial) me(dia).