You Can’t Always Get What You Want…

deborah blog

Deborah Alexander writes: Regarding family words of wisdom, ‘Don’t go to bed with wet hair’ is, for some reason, all that sticks in my mind. I feel sure that wiser words were passed on by my parents and grandparents so I like to think that their wisdom was absorbed in a kind of osmosis over the years to form part of my naturally wise character. Or maybe that’s optimism on my part.

There don’t seem to be many twenty-somethings dishing out advice so obviously there must be something about getting older that prompts that urge to pass on what we have learnt to the next generation. But are the young really ready to listen? While we see the sands of time streaming through the hourglass at a rate of knots, for the younger members of society the bottom of the glass is barely troubled with those troublesome grains. We ageing (mature?) types are desperate to pass on what we’ve learnt before we shuffle off, but will they take their earbuds out long enough to hear?

deborah 2The Girls Do Coffee show provides the perfect arena for sharing our life experience with the listeners. Gwen, Liz and even I always have something to share, while Dave Hailwood’s pearls of wisdom are unique, as listeners will undoubtedly testify. It is also an opportunity for our guests to pass on useful or insightful gleanings from their own lives.

We (myself and fellow presenters, Gwen Jenner and Liz Garnett) were thrilled to have the opportunity to talk to the delightful Peter Dunne on the Girls Do Coffee show on Ex-Pat Radio a couple of weeks ago. His book ‘The Fifty Things’ is sub-titled ‘Lessons for When you Feel Lost, Love Dad’. It’s full, not just of wise stuff, but also of lots of laughter and just good stories. Plus, plenty of quotations and I’m a sucker for a pertinent quote.

Thank you, Peter, for reminding me of Isaac Asimov’s ‘Never let your morals prevent you from doing what’s right’ and George Bernard Shaw’s ‘If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.’

Of course, Peter isn’t the first to want to pass on some sound advice for life. One of the favourite books on my shelf at home is Meditations (or Thoughts) from Marcus Aurelius. His written thoughts go back way to around 175 AD. Naturally, the language of the text is appropriate for that era…but the desire to pass on the message to stop wasting our time and get straight to the nub of getting the most out of life is still there. You might have seen ‘Perform every action a though it were your last’ on a T-shirt, but were you aware that it is one of the thoughts of Marcus Aurelius? I also like ‘Some people are busy and yet do nothing’. That could fit right in with modern society, couldn’t it?

But as to how to encourage the young to listen…I can’t help wondering if they are more likely to listen if the advice comes in the form of a song? The first to leap to my mind was Michael Jackson’s ‘Man in the Mirror’…. ‘If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.’ So now what would your go-to song be?

Turning to Reddit to find out which songs offer the best advice, according to its members of course, one of the highest-rated was ‘Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen’ by Baz Luhrmann from 1999. For some reason, that one passed me by in 1999…too busy travelling through France and splitting up with a long-term boyfriend. But its lyrics…and maybe the retro video with its seventies feel…clearly hit the right note for many people. The lyrics (available on are lengthy, spoken more than sung, but contain both meaningful and laugh-aloud truths ranging from ‘Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind, the race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself’ to the rather more simplistic ‘You’re not as fat as you imagine.’

Maybe I could have done with listening to some helpful words back in 1999 instead of looking at the eclipse and crying into my pillow. But as the Rolling Stones said, ‘You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might just find, you get what you need.’

Deborah Alexander –

Instagram: @alexander_deborah

Twitter: @ReflectiveDeb

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