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Left Hand Habitude

A few years ago I was riding the rail in Bristol. It was a scorching hot day in July and the train had been delayed by two hours. As I awaited its arrival, more and more people began appearing on the platform. When it finally did make an appearance there were so many people ready to climb aboard I was a little worried we wouldn't all fit on. As the doors opened I somehow managed to wiggle my way onto the carriage. Firstly I went to sit on a folded seat in the corridor. Then a gentleman (I guessed around 50 years of age) pointed to a better seat on the luggage rack. So I jumped up onto the unconventional ledge. He then replaced my previous seat with himself. I smiled in realisation and we laughed.

From this sprang a conversation that I will never be able to forget. He began telling me about his life. His name was Mark and he lives in Switzerland. His parter is both deaf and blind and he makes wooden chopping boards for a living. This guy was fascinatingly unconventional and I could relate to him straight away. I mentioned by business of being in Bristol and we chatted about design for a little while. Then onto personalities - what makes them and what people are born with. He mentioned his semi pro athlete days and how the best athletes learn not to become angry or frustrated at the other person because it hinders their growth.

"You have great potential, but you don't believe in yourself"

"I love to people watch" He said. "When I was in the military we were taught how to watch people". His tone grew more cordial "I noticed you on the platform sitting by the wall. I could tell you are a grounded person... earthy" I smiled in understanding. It was really comforting to hear those words. "You have great potential, but you don't believe in yourself". Who the heck is this guy? - I thought. I felt like I'd met folk like him before.

At this point I began to beam. I lifted up my left wrist and twisted it toward his direction. He leaned over and, after noticing my watch, he laughed.

"Where about's are you from?" I asked curiously.

"Helston, Cornwall" he replied. Ah! That made sense. At the time I was studying in Cornwall and his response warmed my heart. We started talking about climbing - a sport we both love - and the importance of challenging yourself. Our topic of conversation carried on this tangent and he started mentioning how good it is to do things we don't always want to do. He gave the example of holding his phone. "I hold it in my left hand. It makes my brain do something it doesn't like but trains it to learn". At this point I began to beam. I lifted up my left wrist and twisted it toward his direction. [Since I was 16 I have always worn a watch with a backwards mechanism.] He leaned over and, after noticing my watch, he laughed.

"Honesty is the word I get when I look at you" Mark said with aged eyes. "I don't do this a lot" he said scribbling something down on a scrap of paper "but here's my number". He handed me the penciled numbers. "You don't have to call it but if you ever find yourself over in Switzerland and need some help, let us know" He also wrote down some books for me to read - of which I am yet to start...


I replay this conversation a lot in my head. It always makes me smile. It always reminds me of who I am and challenges me to be brave and do something new [no matter how big or small]. In December of 2020 I began teaching myself how to write left handed. I wanted to further encourage my brain to work a little differently. I thought it might make me a bit more creative, you know, left brain and all that...and I wanted to see if I could stick at it. Everyday I spent about ten minutes writing with my left hand. Man was it hard to begin with. Just holding the pen felt so alien and wrong - not dislike the first time I held a guitar. I carried on for 150 days and the results were really fun to compare. Along with the alphabet, my name and some occasional random words, I would always recite and write both the Viking Prayer [a bad ass beautiful prayer] and the poem Bilbo writes about Aragorn in Tolkien's 'The Lord of The Rings'. Below you can see the visible improvement from day 1 and day 150. It's amazing to see the evolution of my left had writing as it now looks almost like my right hand writing.

Day 1 : Day 150

This little experiment reminded me that day by day you might not notice a difference but if you stick with things long enough they will begin to appear in positive ways. This was a small thing but if you can do the small things well, you're more likely going to be able to do the bigger things better.


I don't know where Mark is now. I'd love to believe he's still in Switzerland shaping those lovely chopping boards. Maybe I'll make it over that way one day and give him a call, who knows. But I will be forever grateful to him for the conversation that took place between Bristol Temple Meads and Gloucester Station on that summer evening.


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