21 August 2019

50 Lessons from
‘God Never Blinks’
by Regina Brett

‘Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone’ … street art in Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Regina Brett is the New York Times best-selling author of God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life’s Little Detours, which has been published in more than 24 languages.

https://www.reginabrett.com/ She has also written Be the Miracle: 50 Lessons for Making the Impossible Possible and God Is Always Hiring: 50 Lessons for Finding Fulfilling Work.

Her inspirational columns appeared in Ohio’s largest newspaper, The Plain Dealer, for 17 years, where she was a finalist in 2008 and 2009 for the Pulitzer Prize in Commentary.

She now writes for the Cleveland Jewish News and is syndicated by Jewish News Service. She has a master’s degree in religious studies from John Carroll University and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Kent State University.

On her website, she names her three favourite charities as:

The Gathering Place touchedbycancer.org: The Gathering Place supports, educates and empowers individuals and families touched by cancer. All programmes and services are free, including support groups, counselling, yoga, reiki, etc. It is run entirely on donations.

The Jesuit Retreat House www.jrh-cleveland.org: She describes this as ‘her spiritual home since 1981.’ The retreat house offers a wide array of programmes and solitude on more than 50 acres for anyone seeking peace and renewal.

The Maryknoll Brothers: Her friend Kevin Conroy serves as a Roman Catholic priest in Cambodia helping the Little Sprouts, 250 children orphaned by AIDS. Meet these HIV positive kid at http://bit.ly/4G5VmY.

I was introduced to her writings recently through a niece’s Facebook page.

See what you think of ‘50 Lessons from God Never Blinks by Regina Brett:

1, Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

2, When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3, Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4, Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

5, Pay off your credit cards every month.

6, You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7, Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.

8, It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9, Save for retirement, starting with your first paycheck.

10, When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11, Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.

12, It’s OK to let your children see you cry.

13, Don’t compare your life to others’. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14, If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.

15, Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry; God never blinks.

16, Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.

17, You can get through anything if you stay put in today.

18, A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.

19, It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

20, When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.

21, Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22, Over prepare, then go with the flow.

23, Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

24, The most important sex organ is the brain.

25, No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

26, Frame every so-called disaster with these words: ‘In five years, will this matter?’

27, Always choose life.

28, Forgive everyone everything.

29, What other people think of you is none of your business.

30, Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31, However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32, Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

33, Believe in miracles.

34, God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do.

35, Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.

36, Growing old beats the alternative – dying young.

37, Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.

38, Read the Psalms. They cover every human emotion.

39, Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40, If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.

41, Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

42, Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.

43, All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

44, Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

45, The best is yet to come.

46, No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

47, Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

48, If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

49, Yield.

50, Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.

Half a century later,
Centre Point is still
‘coarse in the extreme’

Centre Point … still a landmark building in London after half a century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

When I began training as a chartered surveyor after I left school, one of the modern wonders of the property developers’ word was Centre Point, a large, multi-storey office block that stood empty for years.

It was controversial even then, when it was seen as being brash and crude. It featured on television programme and on the cover of book, and half a century ago it was at the heart of many protests that were closer to my heart then than the training was going through with a large property company and the College of Estate Management at Reading University.

Yet Centre Point was held up as an object lesson to my generation of the ‘build-em-high’ approach in the property world at the end of the 1960s and in the early 1970s, and Harry Hyams, its developer, was held up as an innovative, entrepreneurial developer who managed to build up his portfolio and amass his wealth with a minimal staff.

Harry Hyams (1928-2015) made much of his fortune developing office space in London in the 1960s and 1970s when rents there were rising significantly. He preferred to find single, blue-chip tenants for his properties, having them fully repair and insure the buildings they occupied.

This approach allowed him to manage a valuable and sizable property business with a staff of just six. He also used that as justification for keeping Centre Point empty for years after it was completed, claiming he could find no tenant willing to lease all the space.

The negative reactions created by Centre Point were in sharp contrast to the positive acceptance of the nearby Post Office Tower (now the BT Tower), with its revolving restaurant.

All these memories came back in London last week as I walked back to the St Giles Hotel in Bloomsbury from Westminster, along Whitehall and Charing Cross Road, and found myself in front of Centre Point at 101-103 New Oxford Street and 5-24 St Giles High Street. It also has a frontage to Charing Cross Road, close to St Giles Circus and is almost directly above Tottenham Court Road Underground station.

Centre Point was built between 1963 and 1966 as speculative office space by the property tycoon Harry Hyams, who leased the site at £18,500 a year for 150 years.

This was one of the first skyscrapers in London. It is a 33-storey tower, with 27,180 sq metres of floor space. A nine-storey block beside it has shops, offices, retail units and maisonettes, and there is a linking block between the two at first-floor level.

The building was designed by George Marsh of the architects R Seifert and Partners, and was built by Wimpey Construction for £5.5 million.

Hyams wanted one single tenant for the whole building. Because he was a tough negotiator, the building remained vacant for many years after its completion in 1966.

Property prices were rising at the time, and most business tenancies involved leases for set periods of 10 or 15 years. Hyams could afford to keep Centre Point empty and wait for his single tenant at his asking price of £1.25 million. He was challenged to allow tenants to rent single floors, but consistently refused.

Because it was vacant for so long, it became known as ‘London’s Empty Skyscraper.’ Skyscrapers were rare in London, and Centre Point became a focus for protests in London.

The homeless charity Centrepoint was founded in 1969 as a homeless shelter in nearby Soho, and named Centrepoint in response to Centre Point being seen as an affront to the homeless because it had been left empty as Harry Hyams saw the value of his property portfolio increase.

An umbrella group of Direct Action housing campaigners, including Jim Radford, Ron Bailey and Jack Dromey, organised a weekend occupation of Centre Point from 18 to 20 January 1974 to draw to the housing crisis in London as Centre Point remained vacant.

Eventually tenants were found in 1975. From 1980 to 2014, Centre Point was the headquarters of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

Centre Point was bought in 2005 by the commercial property firm Targetfollow for £85 million, and was extensively refurbished. The tenants included the US talent agency William Morris, the Saudi state-owned national oil company Aramco, the Chinese oil company Petrochina, and electronic gaming company EA Games.

Although Centre Point became a Grade II listed building in 1995, and won the Concrete Society’s Mature Structures Award in 2009, it was never really a pretty site. Perhaps the iron is not lost that the site was once occupied by a gallows.

A promised transport link never materialised, the pedestrian subway attracted anti-social activities, the building was cited as an example of bad design, badly-designed pavements were forcing e pedestrians into the bus lane and reports pointed to the highest level of pedestrian injuries in Central London.

Recently, it was bought by Almacantar, and was converted from office space to luxury flats in 2015 by Conran and Partners.

As I looked up at Centre Point that grey and wet afternoon last week, I had to agree with England’s greatest architectural historian and critic, Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, who once described Centre Point as ‘coarse in the extreme.’