Tag Archives: questions

What would Paul do?


I’m currently experiencing a peculiar period of flux in my life. I’m well aware that devoting a blog post to what is essentially a spot of navel-gazing might feel, and indeed be, a touch self-indulgent but I hope the end result will be acceptable to the majority and not be judged too harshly. It comes with a free poem, if that swings it?

As with any significant change in circumstances, there is an accompanying emotional maze to navigate. To say I have veered from euphoria to despair and back, via guilt, with an unexpected pit-stop at shame and an uncomfortably lengthy comfort break at overwhelming anxiety is to miss an opportunity to shoehorn in the hackneyed phrase “emotional rollercoaster.” It may be trite, but it is true.

And, as with just about any quandary, the sensible course of action is to take some advice on how best to proceed. But from who? Friends? All fantastic and all offering their own valid perspectives. But all with completely different suggestions and opinions, which is not entirely helpful. Family? Err, pass (although obvs love you all). What is needed is someone sufficiently removed from a situation to be able to offer the necessary impartiality and clarity.

Really, as on so many other occasions, I find the best thing to do is to stick on some music and wait to feel better. When it comes to solving dilemmas there are always one man’s words I’d choose above any other. Not just a great musician but an outstanding poet, Paul Simon is my go-to guy. He’s been there. He’s done it all. Granted, he may not always have the route fully mapped out, but, like a dog-eared and coffee-stained A-Z, I trust him to get us there eventually. Are his suggestions helpful? Not always. But will I feel better for listening? Absolutely. The following poem was written with this in mind, and even though the tone might suggest he doesn’t always have the answers, in truth just asking the questions is what really matters. So, whether the advice is what I really want to hear or not, I ask myself: What would Paul do?

Paul Simon Says*

To navigate these intricate pathways
And walk sure-footed along life’s maze
Is a challenge that tests all but a few.
So I sought out a guide, brought him along for the ride
Hoping his words would steer me true.  

Paul Simon says learn to fall before you fly
But how many stumbles before my wings stretch wide
And lift me to the higher ground?

Paul Simon says we share ceilings and floors
But has no wise words for me about unlocking doors
In these walls that surround.

Paul Simon says wear diamonds on your shoes
But jewel-strewn heels will surely bruise
And trainers are comfier when you’re homeward bound.

Paul Simon says we can rewrite the end
But life splintered in fragments is so hard to mend
And denying the obvious is easier, I’ve found. 

*Written for the Lipschtick poetry oracle project

Where do unicorns keep their books? and other unanswerable questions…


The above query was a recent topic of discussion among several three year olds of my acquaintance, along with additional questions regarding their favourite smell and preferred shape.* Early answers revealed substantial differences of opinion – variously:

A) In a bag, perfume and squares
B) In piles by the wall, strawberries and circles
C) Under the sofa, roast dinner and duck-shapes (who knew?)

It became clear that without a unicorn to consult in person, as it were, a consensus was unlikely to be reached.

I mention this not just because I would quite like a definite answer myself but to illustrate the frustratingly complex, frequently pointless, often incomprehensible and regularly unanswerable questions that children ask. When kids are small their parents are granted virtual super-hero status, able to do almost anything and come up with an answer for every query. Other recent interrogations from my children have included “How does rain get in the sky?” (Something to do with being soaked up by clouds, I think?), “How many dinosaurs did you have as pets when you were little?” – (Don’t be so bloody cheeky) and “Why are One Direction so famous?” (If anyone has an answer to this last conundrum, do please share).

As with most parenting issues, I find the soundest course is to fumble through as best I can and hope it turns out alright in the end. But what happens when the questions get harder? Children have an uncanny ability to probe for answers on even the most difficult subjects. Tackling queries such as “Why do people not like people who look different to them?” and “Why do people have wars and kill each other?” is a thorny path that is extremely tricky to navigate.

The most basic reply, that sometimes people are not very kind to each other, seems trite and glib, for all that it is essentially the truth. Answering such questions without scaring a child or causing undue anxiety isn’t easy. Preserving their innocence of the harsh realities of the world for as long as possible is surely much to be desired.

Perhaps I’m worrying unnecessarily – it may be that this basic answer is sufficient for now. By the time they are old enough to question it in detail, possibly they will have developed a tacit understanding that parents don’t have all the answers, however much they might want to. That parents aren’t omniscient, just doing the best that they can. That sometimes the answers you’re looking for just aren’t there. And maybe that’s enough.

But if you should happen to see a unicorn, do please ask about their book storage arrangements – enquiring minds are desperate to know.

*With thanks to Emma H, Rebecca H, Ez, Lola, Betsy and Lily for their insightful input.