Archive | anecdote

Bird-watching from the window

I have a new hobby – bird watching. From my front window, I get a bird’s eye view of sparrows enjoying my feeder. It’s a fairly busy road with not much vegetation, so only the most social birds venture into this domain of city life – the odd robin and blackbird, but mainly the sparrows.


I think we subconsciously look down on the common sparrow – they are not the most beautiful bird in God’s Creation – a rather common brown plumage and their sheer ubiquity can make us a bit dismissive of their real charm. Continue Reading →


Absent-mindedness at the self-service tills

When shopping at the local supermarket, I tend to choose self-service tills – anything to save queuing. I go in most days on the way home from town. Over the years, I have got to know the lady who usually works there overseeing the tills. I try to smile and say the odd greeting.


Sometimes things get blocked, and the supervisor has to scan their clearance. Today everything went through, except the last item a plant. So she came and cleared it through. As I was walking out of the supermarket, lost in my own world of thought and putting my bag on the bike, the lady came out and said ‘Can you come back and pay please!”

Can you believe it, I had put all the items and through and forgotten to pay at the self-service till!

I felt very embarrassed and went back in. Fortunately, the lady seemed to trust I had made an honest mistake of absent-mindedness and she didn’t feel the need to call the police! Plus it was hardly like I was trying to sneak things under my jacket. I think I got confused when she cleared the till. It was extreme absent-mindedness that could have ended up in a sticky situation! Good job I wasn’t in an unforgiving foreign country! Continue Reading →


Absent-mindedness at the self-service tills, part 2

My supermarket-space-cadet story wasn’t quite finished. After a couple of days, I went back to the supermarket with a certain degree of self-consciousness – if not minor embarrassment.

I got off to a bad start by unloading my small trolley on a till that was broken. The screen said to call for assistance, so I did, and the supervisor who usually works there said, in a no-nonsense tone.

“No love, this till isn’t working you’ll have to find another”

I feared this till had been broken all morning, and I would have saved a bit of hassle if I had looked at the screen first, but I was too preoccupied with thinking about my previous week’s absent-mindedness.

On finding a working checkout, I put my shopping carefully through, making sure I didn’t fade out into the land of daydreams and brain-fail. Continue Reading →


Science is offering to humanity more leisure time…

The theme of this month is “The Good Life

Another reason I like the BBC comedy “The Good Life” – (apart from growing organic potatoes on your front lawn in suburbia) is that it is about the work-life balance – giving up the opportunity to earn money to do something more fulfilling. When I left university I wanted a job which gave the most free-time. Enough money to get by, but I was more interested in meditation. That’s why I stayed in Oxford and never applied for any ‘proper jobs!’
Continue Reading →


Generosity of spirit

I have been seeking treatment for a persistent hip problem. One of those injuries which stubbornly hangs around longer than it should. Not particularly painful but enough to halt cycling.

I have gone through numerous practitioners – physiotherapists, osteopaths – to no avail. I remember Sri Chinmoy saying ( I paraphrase) we should choose one doctor and stick with them until it is clear nothing is improving.

The time period to stay with a doctor (with a problem like this) is not an easy judgement to make. Everyone offers a different viewpoint depending on their background.

Anyway after trying several options. I decided I would stick with one particular osteopath until it got better. Unfortunately, after several visits – it wasn’t getting any better – if anything getting worse.

When I was about to book another appointment, the osteopath suggested I see another colleague who might have different ideas. He wasn’t happy no progress was being made. Continue Reading →


A British Bus-stop

I was flying to New York and began the journey of 3,000 miles at a bus stop in Oxford. The first person waiting at the bus stop was an immaculately dressed Muslim; he had a dignified bearing, and we exchanged brief smiles. At the other end of the bus stop was a drunkard sitting on a rubbish bin. Intoxicated, he kept trying to catch my attention with a rather leery grin. There were also another two foreign men, drinking alcohol hidden in plastic bags. A wonderful British bus-stop – two teetotalers, surrounded by three drunkards.

Then along came another waif and stray – selling some kind of magazine. He offered to sell it to the drunkard for 20p. The drunkard dug around in his pockets and bought it. Then the magazine seller came to me and offered to sell me a copy for 50p! I wasn’t in the mood for buying a magazine, so I politely declined. Maybe I was put out because he was charging me a higher price. As an economist, I should admire the homeless person’s knowledge of price discrimination and income elasticity of demand. Setting different prices to people of different incomes.

But, I remained unmoved. Despite his protestations, I didn’t buy. My Muslim friend wasn’t interested either. Finally, the bus came and I started the journey to New York.


The popularity of Indian Cuisine in Britain?

My good friend from America, Mahiruha works in a grocery store. He asked why the British expats were so keen on Indian cuisine. This is my take on his question.

The first thing that springs to mind – if you grew up eating British school dinners you would better understand the popularity of curry and Indian food.

When I was growing in Yorkshire many years ago (in the days of black and white tv e.t.c.) – we were lucky to get more than a diet of tripe, dumplings and boiled cabbage (and sometimes custard with a horrible skin on it). By, contrast a curry seemed incredibly exotic. I think I tried a mouthful aged five but my taste buds were not acclimatised, and I took a dislike. I never took another curry until aged 18 I had my first curry in a restaurant in Bradford. I ordered an “extra mild curry” – quite nervous about the exotic spices and was pleasantly surprised it was quite tasty. If only we had a bit of curry powder to mask the horrid tastes when growing up.

The only thing is that curry doesn’t mix well with Yorkshire Pudding. If made properly, they are very good genuine British cuisine. Continue Reading →


The lazy seeker with one good quality

During our Christmas vacation, Sri Chinmoy would encourage his students to perform plays. These plays would be based on Sri Chinmoy’s own stories – and would usually have some kind of uplifting message or spiritual lesson. These stories might be adapted in numerous ways – often with a humorous slant.

I think Sri Chinmoy encouraged us to write and perform plays for a variety of reasons. One of the many reasons was simply to do something different and put yourself in a situation outside your comfort zone. I don’t naturally veer towards the stage and am usually content to sit at the back and watch. But, whilst out cycling, I got an idea for a play. It was based on two things:

  1. A talk Sri Chinmoy gave just before the New Year (an old audio recording) about the importance of concentrating on the good qualities of other people.
  2. A play about Socrates visiting a palm reader. (see: Sincerity, simplicity and purity) Because we were in Greece, many groups had adapted this particular play about Socrates visiting a palm reader and how his followers become mad when the palmist saw undivine qualities in their teacher. The joke was that in this case, people were mad the palm readers couldn’t see the undivine qualities of their friend.

Bob, the lazy person, was played by Nirbhasa, who is one of the wonders of the modern age – tirelessly enthusiastic and busy. It was a minor joke to have him play the lazy one. He did a good transformation at the end. I played Tom.

greece-sea Continue Reading →


The power of synchronicity


I was cycling in the Yorkshire Dales. The roads were surprisingly quiet for such an idyllic August afternoon. But, despite the breathtaking rural scenes, my mind was ruminating over economics; in particular, I was thinking deeply about UK labour market regulations and the National Minimum Wage. I was a little bit annoyed with myself for being so taken with economics, when I felt I should be enjoying the scenery.

My mobile phone in my back pocket started to ring and, unusually for a cycle ride, I decided to take the call.

“Hello, is that Economics Help?” (in strong Scouser / Merseyside accent)

“Er, yes”

“Can I ask a question on economics?”

Usually, when people ring up asking me economic questions, I abruptly say I’m too busy – especially if I am cycling. But, for some reason, perhaps because I was thinking about economics, I persevered. Continue Reading →


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