Stand like a winner

As a yoga teacher, I often say, “Your body is your emotional signature.”

It actually started from my wise eccentric grandmother who told me a long time ago, “Look at a man’s feet. If they are soft and namby-pamby, he is not to be relied on. He’d be off at the first sight of trouble.”

No truer words have ever been spoken, Granny.

It is so fundamental to yoga philosophy, too: you have to be firmly grounded to begin the practice. Life has not even begun if your standing leg is shaking. Do not proceed until you establish a strong base. Focus on your feet, spread your toes, engage your core, grow tall.

But here’s the piece: I notice students slouching in class, not because they are lazy, but because they have no core strength. Core strength is something that has to be cultivated because your journey cultivating it gives you the internal strength, fortitude and resilience that you need it life. You need to stick to a tough practice to get a strong core. In my forthcoming parenting book, I wrote that children need strong roots, not just tall branches because I have seen too many high flyers with no backbone and no moral fibre. Whatever their paper successes are, I would be ashamed to call them my children.

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A recent University College London study involving 1,500 subjects found that small changes to a woman’s stance can have a big effect on how she is perceived, even when what she wears and says stay the same. People tend to take those who stand with feet wide apart and who used their hands to illustrate points were more widely believed, though they were saying the same thing and dressed in the same way as subjects in the control group.

The research, led by Professor Amy Cody showed that showed that standing in a powerful pose for just two minutes can re-set the body’s chemistry.

In the quest to produce wonder kids, many parents are missing this: growing inner strength in a child. Academic success and external achievements should be matched by a strong body, mind, heart, spirit and character, which is expressed in a person’s body language. Yes, your body language is your business card in both your professional and private lives.

Here’s a two minute a day yoga practice for adults and children: close your eyes. Stand with your feet apart, put your hands on your hips and mentally push your hips down, rooting the lower half of your body. Breathe deeply. Feel the life in your breath. Lengthen your spine, open up your chest, lift your heart upwards. Breathe. Grow strong in this pose.

My sixteen year old daughter and her teammate unconsciously standing in this ‘winner’ pose – team sports are good for children!

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Related articles: Do you stand like a man? and How Power Posing Can Boost Your Career


She conquers the world

My Ma expressed some concern that my youngest daughter Georgina, who is in the midst of her IGCSEs, is helping me with my new parenting book and that she has a full-on football training schedule. And a busy social life to boot. My Ma – who is a strong proponent of the theory that all human beings need to live happily is fresh air, love and sunshine – thinks that her youngest grandchild has too much on her plate.

“Oh, Jac, you weren’t brought up like this at all,” my Ma admonished me. “You were on the beach before your exams!”

But, Ma, I have a child who is wired differently. She has her snout in many pies, by her own free choice, and thrives on the pressure and challenges. What stress?

“With smart organisation, you remove stress,” Sixteen year old Georgina explained patiently. “A Game Plan brings order to the chaos.”

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It is indeed true. I was at University with three young children and no helper. In those days, I had to be very organised. Monday was washing day, Wednesday was catching up with University work day and Saturday was house-cleaning day and preparing freezer bags of food for the following week. It was only by being super-organised that I managed to survive those years and get a degree to show for it.

But often, children and teenagers don’t know how to organise themselves. This is largely due to helicopter-parenting: control-freak parents micromanaging children to the extent that children stop thinking for themselves. What is the point? Mummy/Daddy has planned the day down to the last hour for them. They just have to show up for the free ride, no need to switch the brain on.

In the parenting book that Georgina and I are working on, I explored this issue of disempowered children. How to cultivate motivation and initiative in children?

“Get off our backs for starters!” Georgina exclaimed. “Give us space.”

Yes, we used to allow her to wear her mermaid outfit everywhere, even to bed. It got dirty and tatty, but she still wore it. And we allowed her to. Why not?

Georgina spends a lot of time making detailed notes. Though she has told me to get off her back, I could not help but ask, “Aren’t you wasting your time, spending hours making pretty notes instead of studying?”


“I’m organising my brain, Mum!”

OK, point taken. But why don’t you just read it from textbooks?

“Because the act of writing down the concepts in my own way and in my own words forces me to understand, Mum. I write down notes in class too which I often don’t look at again, for the same reason: it forces me to understand.”

Maybe not having an iPad throughout the years helped her in developing a good relationship between her brain and pens, pencils and paper. She is actively engaged whenever she is faced with something rather than passively entertained, be it studying or her social life.

Recently, I interrupted her whilst she was studying. She was wearing headphones.

“Can you concentrate whilst listening to music?” I asked curiously.

“It’s white noise, Mum,” she said. “It helps me to concentrate better.”

I listened in. Yikes! I had a blinding headache coming on immediately!

She grinned. “You see now why it focuses the mind?”

Our children are not us. They are wired differently from us. This is also their world. The future is theirs. And I think we have to trust them to find their own way, even if their way seems illogical. Dig deeper and often, you will see beautiful logic emerging from the madness of a teenage brain.

Work hard for the right reason


It’s no secret – I detest work that requires sitting down and I detest work that requires using my brain. These two traits were the cause of my dismal exam results: I managed three ‘O’ levels despite going to an expensive private school and those three ‘O’ levels were in subjects that required literally no studying: English, French and Mathematics.

Though my Ma did not give me a hard time over it, in later years she confessed that she was shocked that I did not even manage a ‘C’ for Biology. “You knew so much,” my Ma said.

Well, the reason was, I never had the discipline to study.

In my parenting books, I enclosed this diagram:

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My Ma never forced us to do anything. She used to say cheerily, “Ooooh, when you are an adult, there will be so many people telling you the things that you can’t do, or things that you have to do. So enjoy what you have now, dearies.”

Thus, we had a magical time growing up. I will always remember the closing years of my childhood sitting on the beach with my younger brother when we were supposed to be studying for our ‘A’ levels, and going to the Polytechnic library to waste time instead of work.

Whatever issues that arose from my Ma’s magical ways were laughed off with her cheery, “Don’t worry, it will all come out in the wash.”

Maybe we were just plain lucky or maybe my Ma had been right all along, but all her children turned out just fine academically and in our careers.

Because you see, though my Ma was easy-going with us when it came to ‘unimportant things’, she taught us very strong work ethics, moral courage, inner strength and commitment where it matters. And where it matters is human relationships.

I began working fiendishly hard when I became a mother and my baby-daddy was a happy-go-lucky chap who did not earn that much (and who had no intention of climbing the career ladder). To the amazement of all who knew me, I won a scholarship to Oxford. Whilst at Oxford, apart from the burdens of studying and caring for three young children, I worked in part time jobs to supplement the family income. I worked hard in my career too, not for my own glory, but to provide for my family.


I write this post because very rarely do parents teach children the reason for working hard. These children grow into adults who work for the sake of working. “Can’t see the wood for the trees” as the old adage goes. I strongly believe that if we work hard for the sake of work alone, it is a very empty life. We might get bolstered by our colleagues’ accolades, the financial rewards or job satisfaction, but what is at home and in our hearts? Many true anecdotes abound about men who keel over and die the minute they retire or marriages breaking up when the husbands retire. And even more about driven careerists who did not place enough importance, commitment and hard work into the family, often causing pain to their partners and children.

I believe that we exist to love. Love is the Universal Law. In Mathematics, what an object is is not determined by what it is composed of, but rather, by how it behaves with respect to other objects.

I certainly find that I am more committed and more dedicated to work when there is a human element involved. For example, I am now working fiendishly hard on my forthcoming parenting book that I am co-authoring with someone. It will be her first book and I feel morally invested in making our book a success for her.

If you are looking for something to think about this morning, I would like to urge you to think about raising children to be firmly rooted in love for others, love for themselves, love for the world and love for the Universe.

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No need to move to Finland

It’s easier to think that the solution lies in the external rather than realise that you create your environment. Many people think that if they move house, move neighbourhood or move country, they will be happier. I have known people who complain about their houses, their neighbourhoods and their countries of residence, who then move and find out that the land-of-milk-and-honey is not what it is all cracked out to be. The streets of London are not paved with gold. Happiness and contentment starts with YOU.

The news and articles that had been making its rounds in recent times is how Finland tops the Global Education Ranking (as the US declines) by its daring and innovative education policies. Oh, the number of parents who tag their partners with the comment, “Let’s move to Finland.”

Uhm, can you stand the long hours of dark in the winter or the high cost of living? I strongly believe that we do not have to move to Finland to give our children the benefits. After all, school is only half the story. What you create in the home is every bit as important, if not more. A teacher once said, “A child who gets his education only from school is not educated.”

o, what’s so special about Finland’s education system that gets so many parents dream of packing their bags and relocating?

No homework. Shortest school day (20 hours a week for younger children including lunch hour) and shortest school year. You learn more by going to school less because your brain has to relax to be more effective.



OK, you cannot dictate the school hour and the school year. But aren’t you adding on to your child’s burden by tuition?Our policy in our house is, no more than 1 hour a day during the week for homework, project work and studying. 2 hours maximum at the weekend. She has to learn to work efficiently. And here she is on a Sunday morning, making use of her 2 hours. You know what is the surprising thing? She has an exam on Monday and here she is, working on something else not related to her exam.

“Shouldn’t you be studying?” I asked, playing the devil’s advocate.

“Finished,” she said. So yes, 9 hours a week is plenty.

Another thing about the success of Finland’s education system: children are given a voice (yes, they learn respect too). The children help to design the school playgrounds with the architects who consult them. Wow, great! But your child’s school is not progressive, right? Well, neither is my child’s. But hey, you know what? You can foster that same accountability and creativity by allowing your child to choose his/her own wardrobe and bedroom design. Allow some freedom of choice, relax parental control-freak tendencies – your child goes a long way.

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Most of all, the implementors of Finland’s successful education system talked about happy, happy, happy. The Principal of my child’s school talks about happy, happy, happy, too. He said he told his staff to make sure that they have a good relationship with the students; learning comes second because a happy child learns more. So what does it take to make a child happy? I would say, it starts with happy parents and happy household. It’s not about moving but about you and what you create.

The things you don’t say…

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My father took this photograph of me in October 2015. I remember it was a beautiful morning at home. We were staying in my parents’s house for a week or two, and had just come back from the Farmers Market in the town square. I had bought these organic curly kale.

Yet he harassed my Ma. “There’s something not right.”

I was outwardly normal but my Daddy knew that deep down, there was another picture. He and I fought viciously but he loves me very deeply, and with the depth of that love he has for me, he felt rather than heard. I was, and will always be, his little girl. My mind, body and heart were sick, and he knew. We sometimes communicate best when we say nothing at all, because we fight each time we use words.


My normally docile Ma fought with him and ordered him to hold his tongue. My Ma with her infinite wisdom. “It shall come to pass”, she knew. Though she admitted it was difficult for her. She said she just trusted in a God that she does not believe in, but one that I believed in with all my heart.

In the mysterious way the world works, I went down to the depths of hell and arose again. I had six of the happiest months of my life. Just compare the photographs from October to April. The years and the cares fell off my as I live my best life. My partner says he could power a generator with my smile though he remembers a different me from November 2015 so very clearly.

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So my point is, be happy. Especially if you are a parent. That is the subject of my parenting book. Because if you are not happy and content, your kids will sense it (like my father sensing my true feelings). And that is nothing more damaging than that, even if you provide your child with good food and good house.

Here’s a cheesy song: When you say nothing at all


Parenting is an attitude

Parenting is an attitude, not a biological function.

In my book, Easy Parenting For All Ages, I wrote that parenting should never be considered a sacrifice.  Rather, it is a compromise.

If like me, you came into parenting high on idealism and realised that ouch, it costs a lot in terms of your personal ambition, energy and resources, the biggest mistake you could make it see parenting as a sacrifice. The “I could have done that if I didn’t have you” mindset breeds resentment which is not a healthy environment for children to grow up in with that burden to bear. And as I am fond of saying, it only takes ONE parent to screw children up.

I was shocked to realise that even with one child, my carefree hedonistic life and burning ambition was over. My friends went off for exciting gap years or to university whilst I stayed behind working in my local hospital lab which was kind enough to take me on. Later, when I finally started university (by then pregnant with my third child), I realised that my student life was so different from my friends’. They were talking about cool bands and cheap beer in the student union, I was too exhausted with exams, assignments, project, house cleaning, cooking, childminding and part-time job. Of course resentment crept in.

But my children’s father was always joyful. He the reluctant father. And therein lies in our successful parenting story – he had always been genuinely happy to be nothing more than a parent. Yet he had to sell his boats. Yet he had to move 250 miles north to Manchester away from his mates and sailing in the south coast. He took up fell running in the stunning Peak District instead, which he learned to love. He began loving the northern mountain town of Kettleshulme. He made new friends.


His happy state of mind is infectious. I woke up then to the fact that life now for me was better than it could have been despite our financial hardship, challenges and being away from my family and friends in Hampshire. So parenting wasn’t a sacrifice though I could not live the life I envisaged. It was a compromise. Some would say, it was a better life with my large brood of small children with their father’s trademark chuckle and the silly “Are we having fun yet?” family mantra.

Thirty years later, he still has the same attitude. Parenting is not a sacrifice. Here we were a few Saturdays ago, in my daughter’s empty school during the school holidays, patiently waiting for her as he decided she needed to go into school to do her project. There were other things we could have done instead of sitting in an empty classroom on a glorious Saturday morning in Phuket, but spending that time with her was a good compromise. It is the best thing we have ever done, to be parents to her and her siblings ❤

Parenting is Work, Work, Work

Last week was the celebration of St Joseph, The Worker.

As I sat in church, half-listening to the priest, I wondered what St. Joseph had ever done to deserve this great honour that lasted over 2,000 years. The Worker? It wasn’t as if he built roads or led armies to war. He didn’t do all that much. He didn’t even preach. Not much was written about him in the Bible.

Then I thought back to the biblical tale of the boy Jesus who got lost in the temple. At that moment when He was found, Joseph was a better parent than Mary. It takes a lot to be a good father, I realised.

The most difficult thing is resting the “I” in order to be able to rise to the role of being a parent. A parent is a safe haven, fair judge, tireless servant, kind heart and pair of loving arms. To fulfil all those important roles would require a serious reallocation of priorities, intentions and energies. It is a BIG job. Some would say it is the biggest and most important job you will ever do.

My children’s father did not consciously choose to become a father. He was in his twenties when it was forced on him. He was having the time of his life, why would someone what to change the rules when the going is good? And the going was indeed good for this happy chap from South East London. He was sharing a small house with another bachelor in my hometown, had three sailing dinghies and did what he wanted with his life. He was planning to move to Paris. He certainly did not jump for joy at impending fatherhood. But he had such a magical and beautiful childhood that he automatically, unconsciously, created that sweet, happy space when the honour was bestowed on him. It was as if he could not be anything else but the parent his were.

I, on the other hand, liked the idea of motherhood, largely due to teenage idealism, but then realised very quickly that it required life-changing sacrifices. My life was no longer my own. I couldn’t even afford to go to the University of my choice, because there was no affordable childcare. I wasn’t raise to be a worker, I was raised to be a princess by my adoring mum. It was a shock to my system. That resentment could have lasted for years, blighting my children’s childhood. There is nothing more damaging than a resentful mum, because resentment breeds discontentment, impatience and unkindness.

But fortunately, with investment from my Ma and my in-laws, the resentment did not take root.

Slowly, with humour, warmth, kindness, love and tough love (from my in-laws), I found my way to a different life than the one I envisaged. Some would say it is a better life. Parenting is not a sacrifice, but a compromise. I had to work harder, I had to work longer, just to keep up, to stay afloat. I didn’t have any time for myself, and I no longer owned my own life. But I had little people who looked at me with adoration in their eyes and a man who laughed uproariously with them. We had a crazy-busy life, with me trying to juggle University exams and part-time work, but our life was sweet. Slowly, I learned that compromise is beautiful when those chubby baby-arms and starfish fingers wrap themselves round me like octopi.

I no longer missed what could have beens and found great contentment in what I have. It wasn’t the life I planned for myself, to be cleaning the bathroom on my one day off and working in minimum-wage menial jobs to pay the bills, but the rewards were huge. It was then I became a Worker, with gladness in my heart.

Work is love made visible. And if you can’t work with love, but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of the people who work with joy.

Kahlil Gibran, Artist, poet and writer

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Parenting is EASY

I think the most significant thing I have done in recent months is getting my parenting philosophy into the lives of so many parents who downloaded my book on Kindle in such great numbers that my book, Easy Parenting For All Ages, ended up on the coveted #3 spot in the Parenting genre.

But is it false advertising? Can parenting ever be easy?

I read some of the comments that popped up in forums: “She has five kids, it gets easier the more kids you have”, “She is rich, she has maids to look after her children”, “Her kids have good genes.”

Not so. (i) Parenting got easier once I sussed out what I was doing (note: I have a child on the autism spectrum) (ii) I had no maids, no cleaners and no parents helping me when I was a penniless student at University 250 miles from home and (iii) my kids are mischievous, all of them are so different from one another, but the parenting philosophy is the same.

Well, straight from the horses mouth, it is easy because there are two principles to sort out first and foremost when it comes to parenting, and then everything flows:

The First Principle


The Second Principle


Simple as that. My children’s father came from a very happy household and he sussed that out early. We all need to be happy even when life was tough.  This was why he focused a lot of his energy on getting us all laughing, especially me, instead of earning more money. I was a spoilt and uptight little cow and he sorted me out.

If the energy of the woman isn’t right, the household isn’t right.

Without sounding sexist, mothers have a huge potential to damage children because our voice is the house that our children live in. It is by far the loudest voice our children hear, even in adulthood. How we speak to our children become their inner voice.

Without a mother who is contented with her role, happy with where she is, feels supported and is accepting of her path (imperfections and all), the household is rudderless and not peaceful, however big or however rich. Granted, it is difficult in the real world to be happy-clappy all the time, but I strongly believe that if we hold on to these two basic principles, then we go a long way already towards raising happy, strong and balanced children.

I do have some stresses in my life at the moment, but I often remind myself to maintain a sense of equanimity and normality for the sake of my household, and hence, my daughter. The best I can give her is this.

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Mummy Army Rules!

When I was young, we had a collection of books called The Encyclopedia Britannica. I still remember the thick, leather-bound books that sat in the study in my parents’ house like stout pillars of knowledge. They contained everything in the universe that you could ever wish to know.

Now, the company is out of business.

Wikipedia is here. Hold up your hand if you use Wikipedia. I certainly do. I love it because it is the work of millions of people. Yes, we all contribute to this huge, living and growing Fact-Tree. No wonder Encyclopedia Britannica went out of business. There was no way expensive static books could compete with free, ever-growing tree of knowledge.

Wikipedia is the ultimate in collaboration. And collaboration is in the human spirit at its purest form. We want to reach out and pull each other up, it is natural.

Yesterday was the day I gave away free downloads of my parenting book. I did lots of preparation beforehand, from making video tutorials on how to download Kindle to where to find the book, but there was no foreseeing all the issues that will arise on the actual day. There were 639 questions coming in fast and furious, ranging from the highly technical to the “What is Kindle?” and “How do I find the Kindle Store button?”

If it had been a conventional business, I would have had to set up a call centre or annoy a lot of customers. But in this wonderful community that I have established through my tireless blogging and Facebook-ing, an army of mummies (my so-called Mummy Army) marched out in their numbers to help each other. They were patiently explaining the steps to each other, they were troubleshooting and posting screen shots, sharing and joking with each other like old friends. Something very beautiful was happening in our cyber world yesterday. I wish I could bottle the essence.

I was exhausted, jubilant and humbled at the end of the long day. And filled with ever so much gratitude for the beautiful spirit of collaboration I had witnessed. My daughter Georgina, the subject of my parenting book, was doing her exams all day – I would love for her to have been here to experience the beautiful solidarity and power of working together to realise a mutual goal. I believe it is a very important lesson to for children to learn. Collaboration is the lifeblood of many successful ventures. My son went to Royal Naval College Dartmouth and I believe he was taught that. I learned it sitting in my office which is a beach shack, courtesy of my Facebook friends and fellow bloggers.

Yesterday, we pulled off something amazing. My book got to #3 on Kindle Store in the parenting genre. Here’s a big thank you to my Mummy Army.

A day at the office

I spent six years at two top universities in the UK (Manchester and Oxford) but my workplace these days is a beach shack on Phuket island with superb internet connection. My poor parents. But hey, welcome to the new world.

4th of May was not a typical office day. It was the day that my second parenting book, Easy Parenting For All Ages was made available for free download on Kindle. It all started in 2012. I wrote a parenting book called Barefoot In The City. It sold 5,000 copies in the traditional hard copy format and went down the route of conventional books with a book launch party (in the rainforest), book signings and book events. It became a much-loved book because I had successfully built a community around the Barefoot philosophy. The community is still going strong on Facebook and my blogs. In a sense, the followers had become real friends.

Four years down the road and the subject of the book, my youngest daughter Georgina, was about to turn 16. She said some scary, truthful things such as “You can’t stop teenagers doing what they want. We can always find a way if we want to.”

Fortunately for us, she does not want to party, do drugs, get high, sleep around….despite living in the party town of Patong. She wants to study, play football and occasionally eat junk food and veg out with Gray’s Anatomy. So I decided to write an updated version of Barefoot In The City. Georgina’s father thinks it is very easy to parent her (really?), so I decided to call the updated book Easy Parenting For All Ages. Yes, it has his perspectives too.


I did well financially out of Barefoot In The City but Georgina strongly suggested that the new book be released on Kindle. “Think about the trees and the ink, Mum!” Since when has she become an eco-warrior, or does she know something I don’t?

But I have to live by my parenting creed, which is allowing teenagers to take the lead. So dinosaur, un-techie mummy ventured into the world of Kindle, foolhardy and optimistic. Can’t be that difficult, right? Right? After all, I paid for a professional book interior designer to sort the techie stuff out.

I decided to give Barefoot In The City free with Easy Parenting For All Ages. At a measly $3.99 for both books, I should hopefully recoup what I paid my decorator. Er, I mean interior designer. Note: I didn’t want to charge more because it is a learning experience for me and in case it turned out to be a bad job. I just wanted to recoup the costs.

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I never went to one but I don’t suppose these were mentioned in MBA classes. Here they are, for what they are worth:

You can never be 100% prepared.

However much prep you do beforehand, there will be issues on the day. Easy Parenting was launched on 30th April, Georgina’s 16th birthday, with a list price of U$3.99. The Free Book Day was scheduled for 4th of May:

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I made a YouTube video and prepped followers on how to download the free Kindle app, where to find the book, etc.

Don’t assume

Global business does not mean global integration. Surprise, surprise, Kindle downloads based in and is not available for download in Asia. I cursed. Because despite all the checkboxes I ticked (WORLDWIDE), it seems that Asia is not part of the world in Amazon-speak.

You must learn to troubleshoot

On the morning of 4th of May, my messaging service, email account and Twitter were full with messages. All saying the same thing: CAN’T DOWNLOAD.

I knew I would be answering at least a hundred of these, so still in my pyjamas, I made another YouTube video. “Good morning, folks. It’s still very early. It’s still the 3rd of May in USA so please wait for Amazon US to wake up before you can get your free copy.”

Not that simple. There is no one solution for all. “I cannot see it on my iPhone”, “I can’t find your book on Amazon”, “Why do I have to pay $3.99?”

And therein lies the two most important lessons learned:

It’s the people that matters

Out of nowhere, the small army of tech-savvy mums began answering the “How do I switch on my computer” questions. They took screenshots, they advised, they encouraged. I was completely blown away, because as a one-woman-show, I could hardly keep up with the questions hitting me every few seconds. I din’t even have the time to pee because if I moved away from my laptop, there would be 30 messages on cue. Yes, at the end of the day, it is the people that matters. The teamwork. The human factor. Sod the book.

You must care about what you are doing

I made it a point to answer every question. Apart from Amazon, I cursed my daughter. She is incommunicado due to football practice and Biology exam. At one stage, I almost phoned the school to drag her out of the exam room to answer the “I can’t find your book on Amazon” questions.

Finally, the sun is setting and my day is coming to a close. And this is the grand total I have earned today, from the few generous who took pity on me and paid for the book that they could have downloaded for free.

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I am happy, because you can buy a lot of beer for that in Thailand. Now let’s just hope folks leave cheery reviews for me to wake up to tomorrow and no “I can’t download!” messages. Good evening, All. x

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