Saturday 29 August 2015


It's not like when you're 4 and you know exactly what you want your birthday cake to look like, or when you're 9 and you organise a fancy dress party with your cousin because you have a dress that makes your handcrafted wand look perfect, and she has the perfect magician's top hat… it's different now. But still, it's your birthday, so you try to find some magic.

Just around the corner from me, in Ayot St Lawrence, Hertfordshire…

At the entrance, some advice from George Bernard Shaw on birthdays… I'm afraid I disagree with you here, dear GB…

but ah! your writing shed…

Built around a central steep-pole frame, so Shaw could follow the arc of the sun's rays, it was dubbed 'London' by its bearded owner - unwanted visitors were kept away by being told he was 'visiting the capital'… we were therefore surprised to find a telephone above the typewriter, but suspected that was in lieu of a dinner gong - his wife, Charlotte, needing some way of calling her husband in from the land of words. In keeping with the irony of Shaw's instructions to a birthday girl, his house, a paean to Edwardian Arts-and-Crafts days, was closed for modern 'electricals', but the gardens were open and my friends had brought a picnic…

Across from Shaw, the Church of St Lawrence, somewhat newly ruined, and then twist through three kissing gates, take a selfie with sheep, and you arrive at the Apollonian influenced Greek revival church, built at the request of Sir Lionel Lyde, who decreed that 'what the church united in life, it should keep separate in death'. Interesting marriages, the Lydes and the Shaws!

The weather held, the sheep did not leap over the fence to knock the offending selfie-taker, my friends sang 'happy birthday' in church - where it sounded hallowed and melodious - and I even discovered a plaque commemorating a Lieut. Colonel Monier Williams, of the Honourable East India Company's Service, who was Surveyor General of Bombay; also of his son Alfred, ensign in the Grenadier Regiment Bombay Infantry, who fell, at 19, gallantly leading the Storm of The Pass of Nufoosk - a piece of Indian/British history I had never heard of. So I suppose you don't need to be 4 or 9 to enjoy your birthday - you just need the right friends.

Friday 7 August 2015


Many months ago, while in India, my brother Rizwan agreed to do a TEDx talk organised in Vellore. He had been asked thrice before during his working travels in countries like Laos and Malaysia, but on this occasion he was physically present long enough to put together a brief presentation.

Rizwan is currently the CEO of Make A Difference, which mobilises young leaders to ensure equitable  outcomes for children living in shelter homes. As of today, Make A Difference works with 5000 children living in 83 shelter homes in 23 cities across India. MAD's highly efficient delivery model annually mobilises 400 Fellows and 3500 volunteers to deliver a range of interventions aimed at helping children overcome their challenges despite the circumstances they face. I've met some of these volunteers and Fellows - they have energy, intelligence, humour and compassion in spades.

I have already watched this talk several times and find new inspiration and wisdom - Rizwan speaks not only of social change, but also of the patience required to develop insight and true understanding of any problem at hand. There is compassion here too, which we all need for ourselves and others in our pursuit of making the seemingly impossible possible. Watch.

If you wish to know a little about my brother's work, he can be googled and 'found', but here is a brief summary: he has over 16 years of social and commercial experience ranging from strategy and design, to delivery and implementation of programmes and change, has worked with and advised more than 150 social purpose organisations across the UK, South America, South East Asia and Africa, and developed the first dedicated framework for scaling social impact (which can also be found online/ youtube).