Excuses, Excuses!

“I won’t be paying the rent for July. I can’t give you any details, but we are going into the witness protection program.”

“There were leaves on the line.”

“The dog ate my homework.”

We have all heard them; the most lame excuses that people give. Whether this be a celebrity who shoplifts; Winona Ryder’s excuse after being caught was “Didn’t my assistant pay for it?”

Or the person who said they could not be held responsible for speeding because they suffer from dyslexia and don’t understand the speedometer.

Or worse, a woman who left the scene of a car crash because she “didn’t want her ice cream to melt.”

And, perhaps, we have all used them; the worst excuses for being late to work or pulling a fake ‘sickie’ being; “I’ve been bitten by an insect”, “My trousers split on the way to work” and, “My cat unplugged my alarm clock.”

Even in the corporate world excuses are being regularly made. U.S. department store, Macy’s, after making poor fourth-quarter sales blamed the propensity of customers preferring less up-market shops where “they didn’t feel the need to put on lipstick.” Google’s excuse for a lack of performance in the U.K. was, they said, due to “a particularly warm spring”. And, in the world of sport, last October (2014), Spurs manager, Mauricio Pochettino, said the reason they team had suffered three defeats in five games was due to the size of the pitch at White Hart Lane.

Excuses for Not Making a Will

In the world of Wills, the most common excuses for not making a Will are:

I cannot afford it – For straightforward estates, our Wills cost from as little as £250. For the larger estates and for those with complicated affairs, of course, a more robust and tax efficient Will is going to cost more. However, the avoidance of legal issues, the savings in tax and the lessening of the distress to those left behind means that, literally thousands and thousands of pounds can be saved. It is more a case of not being able to afford to not make a Will.

I’m too young – and yet from the age of 18 everything you own will be distributed when you die so why not make your own decision as to who receives your belongings and cash rather than relying on what the law says.

I‘m not rich, so there’s no point – If you have anything special that you’d like to give to someone then you can ensure that they receive it by gifting it to them in your Will. Further, a main reason to make your Will is to name an Executor (the person who will deal with the estate and the funeral), otherwise family members will have to apply to the probate office. Just the cost of doing so and the avoidance of doubt as to who the deceased would have wanted is enough justification to write a Will. Lastly, but probably most importantly, a Will can name the children’s Guardians. If not named in a Will, a court will decide who the Guardians will be; the person they decide upon may not be who the deceased would have wanted.

I wrote a Will several years ago – the law changes all the time as do life circumstances, the likelihood that a Will written several – or even a few – years ago shall still reflect the wishes or the person who wrote it is small.

My circumstances are about to change – A Will can be written to accommodate for many changes and, especially where inheritance tax is concerned, the buying or selling of a property will not make changes to the amount of tax that will be due. However, a Will can ensure that an estate is divided in the most tax-efficient manner.

My partner will get everything – This is not true. Sometimes, a ‘partner’ will receive nothing at all. Even a spouse does not necessarily receive everything without a Will in place.

I don’t have the time – Writing a Will can be a little daunting, however, it isn’t necessary to make a full detailed list of everything. Using a professional is usually the quickest and surest way to guarantee that the process is straightforward and isn’t time consuming. And, any time spent will inevitably be less time than the trouble and expense that loved ones will need to go to sorting out the estate when there isn’t a Will in place.

The Survey Says
A survey carried out in the U.S. in 2011 found that about 60% of people do not have a Will in place including an astounding 92% of those in their mid-thirties (i.e. the age group in which many have young children and babies).

The survey discovered that 61 percent of men do not have a Will whereas only 53 percent of women don’t have a Will and that 32 percent of Americans would rather fill out their tax returns, have intrusive and painful dentistry or give up sex for a month than write their Will.

And the biggest excuses? The Will is too expensive and I don’t have the time. Yet, as mentioned above, using a professional saves both time and money (lots of it) in the long run.

So, why do we make excuses?
As we can see, all excuses sound feeble when put into context, so why do we make them?

Well, a person makes an excuse to justify why they made the misdemeanour or failed at something instead of them looking at the real reason.

The person wishes to lessen their responsibility so that they might have their misconduct overlooked or forgiven since it wasn’t really their fault, they were the victim.

Sometimes, however, we are rationalising our actions to no-one but ourselves. And, then, it is often so that we doing’ have to take a particular kind of action or responsibility. We blame an external situation for something that is really going on inside us.

We don’t feel comfortable looking at whatever it is that is going on inside, so we make an excuse for our action (or lack of).

Basically, what we are really avoiding is something that makes us fearful.

And what might that be?

Thinking about dying

A Huffington Post journalist thought she would ask some 80-somethings how they felt about dying and found, surprisingly, the elder generation who are closer to the inevitable were less fearful. In fact, many said they don’t even think about it at all. Perhaps because they believe, as did the Greek philosopher Epicurus that, “Death should not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here. And when it does come, we no longer exist.”

Yet, when it comes to talking about death, most of us shy away. Death brings on too many emotions and challenges with which we’d rather not deal.

Those who have a faith are sometimes eased by their beliefs, however, this isn’t always the case and what about those who don’t believe? Science tires to answer this, however, as with a faith, the result is that nobody really knows. What we probably fear is not death but the fear of losing what we have and the fear of not knowing.

And our minds don’t like ‘not knowing’.

Our minds like to take short cuts and store beliefs and memories for easy access next time. If, though, this is not a ‘next time’ but a ‘first time’ experience, our minds don’t like it one bit. We become uncomfortable.

Perhaps, the simple answer is, as the 80-somethings who talked to the Huffington Post had discovered, why think about death at all?

Writing Your Will

The process of writing a Will doesn’t need to be emotional or dwell on actually ‘dying’. We usually use the tern, ‘If you had died yesterday’, because if you are writing your Will today it’s clear you didn’t.

So the process focusses on what would be happening to your finances, how would you be protecting your loved ones, and whose lives would you be impacting for the better.

Writing a Will ensures that those you care about are looked after and have the least stress and worry as possible.

Further, most people feel relieved and relaxed after having made their Will. And why would you need an excuse for feeling that?

If you would like to speak to someone about writing your Will, why not give us a call on: 020 8920 3360 and we will be happy to discuss your options with you. Alternatively, you can email us at: info@twb.org.uk or visit our website: http://www.twb.org.uk.

In the meantime, what was the worst excuse you have ever heard – or made?

Leave us a comment to let us know.

We look forward to hearing from you.


We have all heard the stories of identical twins. Maybe from school days when they tricked the teachers, or maybe from teenage years swapping boyfriends or girlfriends. And, of course, twins feature in a lot of fiction; Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and the Comedy of Errors being two of the earliest examples.

But what do we really know about twins?

Here are ten facts about twins they you may not know:

  1. The scientific study of twins is known as gemellology; from gemellus Latin for twin (probably from the Indo-European root yem – ‘to pair)’ and logos, Greek for science. Although the word ‘twin’ itself is derived from an ancient German word ‘twine’, which means ‘two together.’
  2. A study published in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine found that women who eat more dairy products may increase their chances of conceiving twins.
  3. One in 65 pregnancies results in a twin birth that is 1.5% of all pregnancies or 3% of the population. Although only 1 in every 285 births results in the birth of identical twins.
  4. The rate of twin births has risen 50% in the last 20 years. This is due to an increase in maternal age and technological advancement.
  5. More than 9.000 sets of twins are born in the UK each year
  6. Older mothers have a higher chance of fraternal twins, 62% of twins are born to mothers over the age of 30.
  7. 22 percent of twins are left-handed, usually, left-handed people make up for just under 10% of the population.
  8. Twins have been studied for a long time, a rather old now, 19th century study published in the ‘Proceedings of the Royal Society’ journal found that women who gave birth to twins were very strong and healthy to begin with, so were likely to live long lives.
  9. Much more recent research published online Oct. 7, 2011, indicates that from about 14 weeks gestation, twins are interacting with each other and by 18 weeks reach out and touch each other.
  10. Twins often develop their own ‘language’ that only they understand. This is known as cryptophasia or idioglossia and often consists of inverted words and onomatopoeic phrases.

Primogeniture and Twins

Nowadays, it is usual for parents to leave their estates to their children in equal shares, however, there was a system called, ‘primogeniture’ which is where the oldest, or first-born, son had the exclusive right to inherit all or more of his parents’ estate than any of his siblings. Primogeniture dates back to the Old Testament but was introduced to the UK with the Norman invasion in 1066.

This meant that, if the first-born children were twins, it would be the male of these twins (if they were fraternal) and the first one of the two to be born (if they were identical) who would have received all the wealth, leaving the younger twin with nothing!

The same was true for the royal succession to the throne of England. The eldest would have been born to be king.

The Administration of Estates Act 1925, abolished primogeniture as the governing rule in the absence of a valid Will, however, it is often still favoured among the landed gentry who can – due to fact that we have testamentary freedom in England and Wales – leave their estate to whomever they wish.

In 2011, the rules of royal primogeniture were altered to allow a first-born female to succeed the throne and be queen. If a king or queen has twins, however, it will still be the eldest who will reign.

Your Will

Whether you wish for your eldest son – even if he is a twin – to receive the largest part of your wealth, or whether you would prefer a modern approach and leave to your children equally, the best way to ensure that your wishes are carried out is to have your Will written by a professional.

If you would like any help with writing your Will, please do contact us on: 020 8920 3360 or email us at: info@twb.org.uk.

Alternatively, why not visit our website: http://www.twb.org.uk.

And, if you are a twin and introduce your twin to us to have his or her Will written by us too, we’ll give you, and your twin, a 10% discount!

We look forward to hearing from you both!

Take Our Personality Test

Personality quizzes, psychometric testing, character and behavioural evaluations; we’ve all taken one at some point. Whether it was just for fun, a self-development, or as a candidate for a dream job. But do they actually tell us anything really?

Obviously that will depend on whether the candidate fully understood the questions, answered them truthfully, and, whether or not, the profiler actually was competent in analysing the results!

Why not take our ‘Personality Test’ and see if the results match up to your expectations.

Question 1

When talking to people you…
a) stand with your arms folded
b) have your hands clasped
c) have one or both hands on your hips
d) touch or push the person to whom you are talking
e) play with your ear, touch your chin, or smooth your hair

Question 2

How true is this statement?
It is difficult to get you excited;
Not often

Question 3

When something really amuses you, you react with…
a) big appreciated laugh
b) a laugh but not a loud one
c) a quiet chuckle
d) a sheepish smile

Question 4

Your personality is?
a) Relaxed and easy going; you go with the flow
b) Committed and always helpful to others
c) Energetic and hardworking; you work hard and play hard
d) You prefer to work and play on your own

Question 5

Do you trust reason or emotions when making decisions?
Reason every time
Mostly reason but emotions do sometimes play a part
A bit of both
Usually you will go with your emotions, but there is an element of reason
You always trust your emotions

Question 6

To what colour are you most drawn?

Question 7

You make plans and follows through with them

Question 8

How much do you agree with this statement?
You make friends easily
Strongly Agree
Neither Agree nor Disagree
Strongly Disagree

Question 9

What do you do in your spare time?
a) Play on the computer
b) Read or write
c) Hang out/ talk with friends or family
d) Sleep
e) Exercise

Question 10

Do you worry about things?
Yes, for most of the time
Often, but not always
Rarely, but occasionally when a problem is important
Almost never

Question 11

You make plans and follows through with them

Question 12

How would you feel if you had to attend a social event where you knew very few people, if any?
Very Excited
Quite excited
Neither excited nor fearful
Quite fearful
Very fearful

So, how did you score?

Well, we cannot actually tell you your score because we made up the test. Okay, we took the questions from some tests that are already out there, but, we don’t have the ability to give you any of psychology behind the questions because we don’t even know why the questions are asked in the first place!

Maybe you began to notice that things weren’t all they should be at Question 3. Surely you would laugh most loudly when you’re with friends, than when with, say, a client. And, wouldn’t how hearty your laugh depend on how funny the joke? And what about Question 6? What if your favourite colour (or even something remotely close) wasn’t in the choice of answer? Then there was Question 9. ‘Hang out’? Isn’t that the type of terminology that a teenager would use?

What is our point?

By now, you must be wondering why we asked you to take this fake ‘Personality Test’.

The reason we are highlighting this is to indicate how an on-line questionnaire can be dangerous – particularly for taking Will instructions.

It might be that those who are purporting to make your Will do not really have the required knowledge to do so. They may have simply copied some questions from other websites at random – as we did for the Personality Test.

Or, it might be that the people who will be writing your Will do have the knowledge, however those who set up the questionnaire (probably those in IT) do not know the legal reasons why that particular question has been asked and pose the question in a way that is misleading, with disastrous consequences.

This is accentuated in a New Zealand case where a terminally ill man answered an on-line Will instruction question on whether or not he intended to make his Will in contemplation of marriage. The reason that the question is asked is because, if you make a Will and then marry, the Will you have made is revoked unless a clause to say you intend to make your Will in contemplation of that marriage is added.

The man intended to marry his fiancé in his dying days, but answered ‘no’ to the question as he considered the reason he was making his Will was because he was dying, not because he was intending to get married, and he didn’t know the legal implications.

When he married his fiancé, his Will was revoked. He had wished for his fiancé (now wife) to receive his entire estate, however, without a Will, this didn’t happen.
The moral of the story is, therefore, don’t trust an on-line questionnaire when, really, proper advice is needed.

Writing Your Will

If you would like help with writing your Will, please give us a call on: 020 8920 3360, or email us at: info@twb.org.uk and we will be happy to discuss your options with you. Or, you can visit our website: http://www.twb.org.uk – we promise you, you won’t find a questionnaire on there!

Oh, and by the way, what was your personality? (You didn’t need us to tell you, you would have answered it yourself at Question 4!)

Leave us a comment and let us know.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Song Meanings

Sometimes, when listening to the words of a song, we may feel they hold a strong meaning for us, however, sometimes, that meaning is only the one we ourselves attribute to the lyrics. Taken on their own they are, at best, random, if not utterly nonsensical.

Other times we are sure of the meaning of the lyrics, yet, we are not sure which person the songwriter was really referring to when they wrote the song – although we have our suspicions.

Here are a few of those famous songs that fall into those categories and what is purported to be the real person or meaning behind them.

“Dude (Looks Like a Lady)”

The story here is reported in Vince Neil’s autobiography. One night Steven Tyler and Joe Perry went out drinking, when Tyler noticed a woman that he thought was gorgeous even though she was looking the other way. Apparently, he instantly fell in love. But, when the ‘lady’ turned around, she wasn’t actually a lady at all, but Motley Crue lead singer Vince Neil.

“Like a Rolling Stone”

In June 1965, Bob Dylan was moved enough to write ten pages of verse which he says was “telling someone something they didn’t know…”

The piece was never actually written to be a song, however, with some distillation by Dylan and the impromptu help from a young 21-year-old session guitarist named, Al Kooper, (who, even though he wasn’t an organ player, actually played the organ in a rehearsal playback) it became a very notable hit.

The lyrics are about falling from grace and are reported to be about Andy Warhol’s treatment of heiress, socialite and Andy Warhol superstar, Edie Sedgwick, and about Sedgwick’s eventual downfall (although this would have been a mere prediction by Dylan at the time) if she didn’t move away from the drug-induced 60s scene.

Although, Howard Sounes, Dylan’s biographer suggests that the song isn’t about one person in particular but more about the lifestyles that some of those in the movie and music industry at the time.

“White Christmas”

The sun is shining, the grass is green
The orange and palm trees sway
There’s never been such a day
In Beverly Hills, LA

Perhaps not many people would immediately realise that these are the opening lyrics to the song, “White Christmas”, although the final two lines in the opening verse do give some indication:

But it’s December the 24th
And I am longing to be up North

Bing Crosby’s version was in the 1942 movie “Holiday Inn”, although this first verse was not included – for obvious reasons, since the scene was set in the middle of a snow storm.

But, the composer Irving Berlin, wrote it one December when he was staying in Beverley Hills.


No, this Elton John classic isn’t about one of his ex-lovers. Neither is it about Elton’s real brother. Actually the lyrics are written by Bernie Taupin (long-term writing partner of Elton’s) who was inspired by a story he’d read about how so many soldiers who had returned from Vietnam were generally unhappy in one way or another by the way they were greeted, either because of the adulation or torment, so much so, that they were forced to leave their homes and find places where they were no longer known.

The song is about the way a younger brother of a disabled (i.e. blinded) Vietnam veteran feels when his brother leaves.

Many have said that the last verse explained the true meaning of the song but this was cut by Elton as the song was already too long. Taupin denies this, however.

“You’re So Vain”

Carly Simon’s scathing attack on a man who is more concerned about their image than anything else has been said to be about a one-time partner, Warren Beatty. Warren Beatty, believed himself to be the subject of the song. He actually called the singer and said, “Thanks for the song”. I bet you think this song is about you, don’t you, don’t you, Warren?

Simon herself says that it is really a combination of men, although, she has excluded Mick Jagger and her ex-husband, James Taylor as being the man who walked into a party like he was walking on to a yacht. Others have suggested, David Bowie, David Cassidy, Dan Armstrong, and Cat Stevens.

In 2010, Simon reportedly said that, “The answer is on the new version of ‘You’re So Vain’. There’s a little whisper – and it’s the answer to the puzzle.” And, indeed, there is supposed to be the name ‘David’ whispered backwards at about two and a half minutes into the new version – or is that just a gimmick to sell the new version?

The real identity still remains a mystery.

Knowing the Real Meaning and the Real Identity

When writing a song, the fascination of finding out what was really meant and who the person was and the mystery behind it works. Not so, however, when it comes to writing a Will.

If there is ambiguity about the meaning of the words in a Will, a court is left to construe them – and, many times, a court has to take the literal meaning of the words, which is not always what the person writing their Will had in mind.

Further, it might be that, if they are not correctly identified, the real beneficiary, the person who was intended to receive a legacy under the Will, does not receive a penny without a long, and expensive, court battle.

Of course, the best way to prevent this is to have a Will drafted by a professional who can clearly define the intentions of the Testator (i.e. the person writing their Will) and ensure that the beneficiaries are unmistakable.

Perhaps, that is not so much fun and it is definitely not so ‘rock ‘n’ roll’, but it is much less strain and upset and a far better scenario for those left behind!

Although, we don’t think anyone has written a song about it yet!

If you would like any help with writing your Will, please do give us a call on: 020 8920 3360 and we will be happy to discuss your options with you.

Alternatively, why not email us at: info@twb.org.uk, or visit our website: http://www.twb.org.uk.

In the meantime, do you know of any songs which have hidden meanings or are written about an unidentified person? Leave us a comment and let us know.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Movie Coincidences

In the third part of our series on ‘Movies’, we look at the coincidences that have occurred on the film and television sets, at the time of the film’s release, in the lives of the actors involved and events in the years that followed.

Some of them are pretty gruesome but, as we are coming up to Halloween, we’ll leave them in the blog – you have been warned though!

Coincidences in the Making

The Passion of the Christ

Jim Caviezel played the part of Jesus in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion Of The Christ”. Whilst filming the ‘sermon on the mount’ sequence, Caviezel was struck by lightning! The actor was not badly hurt, however, it is a little spooky.


There is a part on the human body that is known as the Achilles tendon. It is a long tendon that stretches from the bones of the heel to the calf muscles.

An Achilles tendon injury can occur when too much force causes it to tear or rupture

Whilst filming the film ‘Troy’, Brad Pitt landed awkwardly during a fight scene and, as a result, tore his Achilles tendon.

The coincidence is that the Achilles tendon is name after the Greek mythical hero, Achilles, who was extremely strong but had one weakness; that particular part of his heel. In mythology, Achilles dies when he is injured in that part of his foot.

Brad Pitt was playing Achilles.


Martial arts icon, Jackie Chan was due to make a movie called ‘Nosebleed’. In it Chan was to play a window cleaner at The World Trade Center and the plot was about terrorists.

A line from the script was: “It represents capitalism. It represents freedom. It represents everything America is about. And to bring those two buildings down would bring America to its knees.”

Chan was unhappy about the script and because of that and some other reasons, the movie didn’t go ahead with the filming at the World Trade Center that was due to take place in early September 2001 – around about the 11th.

Cursed Movies

Some movies are said to be jinxed or have curses hanging over them. Famously, are films like ‘Poltergeist’ where many of the cast were killed and, ‘Psycho’ where a lighting assistant named Myra Davis, was murdered by a deranged Hitchcock fan called Kenneth Dean Hunt, a Hitchcock obsessive and real-life Psycho. There was much confusion surrounding the case, as Janet Leigh’s body double for the infamous shower scene was also called Myra Davis!

and the strange coincidence of the movie ‘Game of Death’ during the filming of which Bruce Lee lost his life, and the movie ‘The Crow’ in which Bruce Lee’s son lost his life, but, hauntingly, the plot in ‘Game of Death’ described the exact way that Brandon Lee died, that is, where a real gun was actually used by mistake instead of a prop gun.

But some seem to be more cursed than others.

The Conqueror

On February 22nd 1956, the movie ‘The Conqueror’ premiered in Los Angeles. Whilst making the film, a flash flood nearly killed all the crew members and the lead actress, Susan Hayward was attacked by a black panther – luckily she survived.

But it was after the premier that the movie’s ‘cancer curse’ began.

Within seven years, Dick Powell the film’s director died of cancer. Then Pedro Armendáriz, was diagnosed with terminal cancer and chose to commit suicide rather than see out his days living with the illness.

In April 1974, Agnes Moorehead died of cancer and Susan Hayward died of cancer in March 1975. John Wayne, contracted lung cancer in September 1964, but managed to hold on until June 11, 1979, when he died of stomach cancer.

In total, 91 of the 220 crew members developed cancer with 46 of them dying.

However, perhaps the ‘curse’ had more to do with the fact that the movie was filmed in the Nevada desert downwind from above-ground nuclear test facilities so, for thirteen weeks the actors and crew were exposed to nuclear fallout.

Further, even though the rest of the movie was filmed in Hollywood, producer, Howard Hughes, to keep the continuity of the movie, shipped 60 tons of nuclear-contaminated earth back to Hollywood – further exposure for the actors and crew!


Perhaps the producers should have thought about film omens before making a film about Satan and naming it, ‘Omen’.

Unsurprising then, that ‘Omen’ is the film with the most gruesome of curses and horrifying coincidences.

Two months before filming began the lead actor, Gregory Peck’s son killed himself with a bullet to the head.

In September, 1975, the plane in which Gregory Peck was travelling to London was hit by lightning. A few weeks later executive producer Mace Neufeld was travelling in a plane and this too was struck by lightning. Then screenwriter, David Seltzer’s plane was hit by lightning.

Some of the filming took place at Longleat Safari Park. The day after filming there was complete one of the animal handlers involved in the filming was eaten alive by one of the big cats.

Whilst back on set, Rottweiler’s mauled a stunt double.

Not having much luck with planes, Gregory Peck was due to fly to Israel on a chartered flight, but, at the last minute, he cancelled. The aircraft was instead used for a passenger flight – it crashed killing all on board.

Another plane was required by the crew in the movie. The plane company needed to use the plane elsewhere so offered a discount if the crew waited for a day or two. The crew took the deal. On the day the crew were supposed to use the plane, it too crashed and killed the pilot and co-pilot by smashing into cars on the road. In an eerie twist, the co-pilot’s wife and child were in one of those cars and were also killed!

During production, director Richard Donner was staying at a London hotel which was bombed by the IRA. And just around the corner, a restaurant where Mace Neufeld and Gregory Peck were scheduled to eat was also bombed.

And, then, shortly after the movie was made, the special effects designer, John Richardson had a terrible car crash in Holland that decapitated his passenger. The date was in August of 1976; Friday the 13th of August to be exact.

On a Lighter Note

It isn’t all doom and gloom surrounding movie coincidences, however. The actor and actress behind the voices of Mickey and Minnie Mouse we called Wayne Allwine and Russi Taylor and they were married to each other!

The Real World

In real life, of course, coincidences do happen, however, the more everyday explanation for them is that there is a commonalty, say a cause or factor, which all involved have experienced and this, although hidden, is the real reason for the coincidence. Or, it might be that something sounds spooky to us, but, in fact, some fairly simple maths will prove that the ‘coincidence’ had a high likelihood of happening anyway.

That said, how much would you leave to chance? Because, well, you’re reading a blog on coincidences and Wills…

Your Will

If you have now been spooked and would like some help in writing your Will, please call us on: 020 8920 3360 and we will be happy to chat though your options with you.

Alternatively, why not email us at: info@twb.org.uk or visit our website: http://www.twb.org.uk.

And, in the meantime, what is your favourite movie coincidence? Leave us a comment to let us know.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Stories and the Movies

In the second part of our series on ‘Movies’ we look at stories and how they affect us.

Telling stories is an act that builds communities, shares knowledge, values and beliefs and is fundamental to our existence.

We have told each other stories since we were first able to communicate. Even before we were able to speak, we drew pictures on walls or danced to convey our encounters to our audience; to impart to others the things we had seen and the way we had felt when we experienced those events.

We do this because stories are the way we humans make sense of life.

We make sense of our relationships, our emotions and our whole existence from the stories we tell one another. Our entire worldview, our memories, our beliefs regarding politics and religion, our understanding of all that is around us and how it came into being, even our dreams, are stories. We use stories to comprehend our world and to share that understanding with others. Stories encapsulate more than we would otherwise be able to grasp or appreciate and apply this to a form which seems sensible to us.

Stories help us learn and are central to our human cognitive systems because they allow us an efficient way to be taught something and to store the components of that learning and, then, easily return later to review that stored information.

Furthermore, however deeply involved we become with the story, it is just a story. We do not have to literally put ourselves in harm’s way, we need only imagine ourselves in harm’s way and receive all the benefit of the thrill, the adventure and the learning about ourselves, but none of the actual life-threatening danger.

Their Story; Our Story

It seems that storytelling can actually modify our brains, influencing the way we think, motivating and shaping how we act.

Neuroscientist at Princeton University, Uri Hasson, says, “When we tell stories to others we can actually have an effect on our audience. The brains of the storyteller and the story listener can actually synchronize.”

This is because our brains are programmed to recognise patterns and make meaning from these patterns. Within stories recognisable patterns emerge and these patterns allow us to attach meanings and form our own reasoning as to why we do what we do and feel what we feel.

In 1944, an experimental study of apparent behavior was conducted by Fritz Heider & Marianne Simmel. 34 Massachusetts college students (though later research proposes that this almost anyone will have the same reactions) where shown a short film clip and asked to note what was happening in it.

The film showed two triangles (one larger than the other), a circle and a rectangle which had a partial opening on one side. You can view the short clip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTNmLt7QX8E

Only one of the 34 students saw this scene as geometric shapes moving across a screen. The other thirty three, constructed stories placing meaning on the movements of the shapes and giving them personalities.

Another aspect regarding stories is how we see aspects of ourselves in the storyteller or the story’s characters, we empathise with them, we become one with them – and then it is no longer someone else’s story; it’s ours.

How Stories Affect Us

Imagine someone comes to your place of work to give you a presentation on, say, ergonomic chairs. If that person demonstrates the ergonomic chairs with straight facts and bullet points on a screen, we will listen to the data about how good the new chair is and nod our heads. And the area in our brains where we decode words into meaning becomes activated. But that’s it.

If the person tells of a young family man who was beginning to make mistakes at work. How his wife became worried about him too when he couldn’t sleep at night. The man told her he was alright, but realised that he had to look more closely at his situation when his little boy turned to him and said, “Daddy, you never play with me anymore.”

So the man looked at what was happening. He pinpointed his mistakes at work, his inability to sleep and his lack of enthusiasm for playing with his son to a nagging pain in his back. He told his employer who, after giving it some thought, installed new ergonomic office chairs. Within no time, the young man was back to his usual self, and, most importantly, was able to play with his child once more.

No, this isn’t an advert for ergonomic chairs, but, what would happen – and, to some extent, probably just happened – is that the language processing parts in our brain would become activated, but so would many other areas. The areas that would become stimulated if we were experiencing the events of the story in reality.

Recent research has shown that watching a romantic movie increases progesterone (the hormone that prepares a woman’s body for pregnancy) by more than 10%. And watching a fight scene increases testosterone in the male viewer.

A horror movie activates the amygdala in the viewer’s brain and watching a baby smile sees activation of the insular cortex.

And, furthermore, the areas in our brains that have become activated, remain so afterwards for hours, even days.

This helps us because, by having our brains believe we have been in these situations and lived through the circumstances, we modify our beliefs and values as if we had actually been there.

Even if, logically, we realise that it is just a story, the stories affect us by reminding us of what we can achieve, what is available to us or, possibly, what we should stop doing in order to save ourselves from a similar fate.

The Movies

Joseph Campbell the author who outlined ‘The Hero’s Journey’, said: “I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive so that we can actually feel the rapture being alive.”

If stories take us in our imagination to feel that rapture in places we would otherwise not encounter, how much more so if that story is told in glorious colour with music, sights and sensations that emphasise the experience.

In fact, it is when watching movies, like those of Alfred Hitchcock’s, which neurologists say, show the most regions of the brain switching on and off. Our brains’ response to the sights, sounds and enhanced emotions illuminates the real power of film. Movies engross us and, in doing so, command our brains to engage and thus begin an orchestra of firing neurons, activated cortexes and cognitive processes. And we love it!

Movies capture us because, to our brains, they seem more like reality, so they have a deeper impact than mere imagination.

Movies are more visual, the scenes move faster, we become more invested in the characters. So our brains begin firing neurons all over and this is something that motivates and inspires us.

Your Story in your Will

Of course, we can’t all be fantastic story-tellers, write amazing novels, or appear in the latest blockbuster. However, in some ways, writing your Will is like writing a story.

If we look back at the Wills of those in days gone by, we can see what was most important to that person now deceased. Did they have family? Did they get on with them? Who were their friends? Did they believe in helping others by giving to charity? What items did they leave behind? Was it expensive cars; or was it a simple gift to a life-long friend?

All these things tell a story to those loved ones we leave behind and to future generations, who may at some point wish to find out about us.

If you would like to leave something behind to those you love, to charity, or to friends, then the only way to do this is to write your Will.

We can help by chatting through your options with you and drafting your Will for you that reflects your wishes.

You can call us on: 020 8920 3360 or email us at: info@twb.org.uk. Alternatively, why not visit our website: http://www.twb.org.uk.

In the meantime, have you ever watched a movie that really impressed you; one you thought about long after the credits rolled? Leave us a comment and let us know.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Top 40 Movies of all time!

Our latest series of blogs is all about the movies!

We all love the movies, whether it is the films themselves or the whole event of going to – or indeed, simply watching – the picture. It is a fun event that can be dressed up or dressed down with family friends, or, potential, partners!

So here is our list of the Top40 movies of all time.

We took them from the ‘Best Movie’ list compiled by the good and the great, but also from the number of awards won, the box-office and subsequent sales and ‘Best Movie’ lists compiled by the actors themselves and by us, the audience.

And here they are:

Top 40 Movies of all time

40. Ben Hur

39. Gladiator

38. Skyfall

37. Saving Private Ryan

36. Slumdog Millionaire

35. Taxi Driver

34. Minions

33. Transformers – Dark Moon

32. Iron Man 3

31. Frozen

30. Raiders of the Lost Ark

29. The Searchers

28. Sunrise

27. Psycho

26. Gone With the Wind

25. Jaws

24. Raging Bull

23. On the Waterfront

22. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

21. Star Wars – New Hope

20. Fight Club

19. Star Wars – The Empire Strikes Back

18. Singing in the Rain

17. Casablanca

16. 2001 – A Space Odyssey

15. Dark Knight

14. Vertigo

13. The Wizard of Oz

12. Schindler’s List

11. The Goodfellas

10. North Northwest

9.  Avatar

8.  Pulp Fiction

7.  Lord of the Rings – Return of the King

6.  The Godfather 2

5.  Forrest Gump

4.  Titanic

3.  Citizen Kane

2.  The Shawshank Redemption

And, in top position – by far the greatest movie of all time…

Number One – “The Godfather”

The Real World

The Real World – now that would make a good movie title – but, of course, this is not the movies. If something goes wrong in life, we can’t just do another ‘take’. And, when we die, that is the end. There is no actor who simply stands up, washes off the make-up and goes home. That is why we have to make sure we get things right while we are here.

We can’t arrange our death, but we can make arrangements for what will happen to our wealth and belongings once we are no longer here. Some of the courtroom dramas that have, in the real world, actually occurred, would make movies that would have your hair standing on end. Family arguments, twists and turns, greed and lawyers making lots of money; all of that has really happened. This is why, even in our modest affairs, we should make sure we have made plans and have our Wills in place.

If you would like to have a chat about how writing your Will can help in your circumstances and how we can help you, please do give us a call on: 020 8920 3360.

Alternatively, you can email us at: info@twb.org.uk or visit our website: http://www.twb.org.uk.

In the meantime, what is your favourite movie of all time?

Leave us a comment and let us know.

We look forward to hearing from you.