Wendy Sikes is rocking the foundations of my world.

The 51-year-old from Denver, Colorado, sends me a message through 23andMe — a sort of genetic LinkedIn. She tells me that she was adopted and believes she may be my third cousin. She asks for the names of my great-great-grandparents.

It sounds like a simple request, but it is, in reality, an existential question.

It calls up the very nature — and nurture — of my being, of who I am, and what my background really is. It also helps to explain why I tend not to dwell on ancestry.

Mum, in white, with friends and cousins

Here’s…

Is it ok not to be ok?

Not really. Not when your wife is dying. When her brain has been invaded by a task force of tumours. When she can’t move her left leg and when the steroids have wreaked havoc on her personality. (The same steroid, by the way, that is now the great hope for treating Coronavirus).

She may have weeks, months, or even a year to live. Just weeks ago was active healthy and literally full of life. Walking, talking, drinking, telling stories, and engaging everyone she met.

Today she is in a wheelchair and can walk only short distances with the aid of…

Image: Adobe Stock

I don’t believe my call is important to you

I don’t believe you are passionate about many of the things you do at work that you say you are.

I don’t believe it is unique.

I don’t believe there has never been a better time to buy it, nor that you are a one-stop shop.

I don’t believe having something for everyone is a good thing.

I don’t believe it is robust or innovative.

I don’t believe you are really committed to diversity, nor to closing the gender pay gap.

I don’t believe you are best-in-class.

I don’t believe you…

Happyhansel primary school, Walls, Shetland circa 1975

It was a throw-away phrase forged forty years ago in a primary school woodwork class. Yet it survives to this day in my household, recited with startling regularity by my children, and still causes me to laugh aloud when it comes to mind.

It was late afternoon and the headmaster, Mr Pearson, was discussing the creation of model boats. While patient and often — but not always — hard of hearing, Sandy ‘Squinty’ Pearson was a man of discipline and not inclined to allow too much frivolity at Happyhansel Primary School in the village of Walls, Shetland.

Having set out…

Print’s charming: Magazine Heaven

As a copywriter and a creative, I cut my teeth on print and it holds a special place in my heart. But there are many who believe that print is dying, especially when it comes to magazines.

So perhaps it is a beautiful irony that Magazine Heaven is the name of the latest retail addition to the small Northamptonshire town of Rushden. An unlikely shop in an unlikely location seeking success against the odds.

Maybe that is exactly why I am willing it to succeed. That, and because it hosts such an unrivaled and diverse selection of magazines it leaves…

Heavy metal: A vintage Land Rover

I am outside surrounded by rolling dunes of sand somewhere in Qatar. It is just before midday and it is 41 degrees, a heat fuelled by a powerful sun unencumbered by even a hint of cloud. The only tracks I can see are those of a desert fox, some unidentified birds and the distinctive treads of around half a dozen Land Cruisers — all long gone now.

This is Khor Al-Adaid, about 70km South of Doha and just 10km from the southern border of Saudi Arabia. …

The Standard, West Hollywood

If all the world’s a stage, Los Angeles is likely to argue that it sits in the centre. Not just because of the number of film studios, locations and talent it offers, but also because its streets are full of theatre.

It is a pleasant December evening in West Hollywood and I am on a post-prandial stroll through the city streets. I have spent the day directing a fashion shoot in the Joshua Tree national park and while the rest of the crew have dispersed to their various appointments, I have just finished dinner at the Sunset Towers hotel.

Trying…

Ben Young

Creative copywriter

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