post I published in June 2020 during the pandemic, while
starting up my Honeycomb
Dome sales venture]
you deliberately walk on fire? Can you imagine yourself
walking barefoot across a bed of coals
glowing at 500ºC? I’ve done just that (see me in the red
shirt below) - but was it a religious rite, motivational
seminar or science experiment?
For me it felt like a science experiment. Yet I found it
I was manager of the Glasgow Planetarium (you can see the
dome behind me) and the company we booked for the charity
fundraiser emphasised the scientific aspect of walking on
fire and not the more popular woo-woo nonsense.
So, if it was carefully explained to you why skin
doesn't burn over short fire walks of 3 to 4 meters, would
you attempt it?
Fire walking is popular because it helps us realise many of
our beliefs are self-limiting ie.
🔥 if you believe
the coal will burn you, you will never walk on fire
if you believe
it’s necessary to conform to society’s expectations, you’ll
never do anything positively disruptive with your life
if I believe
I can only earn a living visiting
schools, I won’t succeed selling social distancing domes to
restaurants during pandemics.
I’d LOVE to know:
➤ have you walked on fire?
➤ would you like to walk on fire?
➤ have you ever turned down an opportunity to walk on fire?
A Single Revolution
I published at 21:30 on Saturday 30th December 2000, in
Armagh, Northern Ireland]
Exactly one year ago, almost at this precise moment, the
wheels of my Virgin Atlantic flight lifted off South
When that moment came, and I felt the thud of the undercarriage
beneath me, I smiled and breathed a sigh of relief: I knew I had
succeeded in finally leaving that unfortunate, deteriorating
country - safe and in one piece.
Yet I also knew that a tremendous challenge lay before me. All
on my own, I was entering a new, unfamiliar environment. A
wintry world where I spoke funny and felt awkward and
The first two weeks were the worst. The very first entry in my
2000 diary reads: "Went to bed in a bit of a panic...asking
myself 'what have you done to your life?'".
Traveling to and from work on a bicycle in the middle of winter
during my first three months in the UK was no joke either. Yet I
stuck it out, marking days off my calendar until things
I'm really glad I didn't throw in the towel.
And tonight, sitting in my comfortable warm room, with the snow
lying thick outside, I can't believe that my diary once again
reads 30th December ... and that Africa is far away."
My precious one-way ticket out:
Do I miss South Africa?
The security of quality health care : when I look at my ageing
parents and notice how ill-health is creeping up on them, I no
longer worry about where we'll find the money to take them to a
private hospital (to avoid the pressing thousands of South
Africans queuing at state hospitals).
No bugs : when I switch on the kitchen light, I no longer see
cockroaches scurrying for cover (vermin that are always there,
despite your best efforts to keep a clean home).
No danger : when I look out my bedroom window at night, I no
longer see lurking people and threatening shadows in the dark.
There is absolutely no-one around - only the occasional taxi
that serves as transport for the neighbour across the way.
Finding the Key
On the outskirts of the 1000-year old Sicilian village Piazza
Armerina, there is a small olive grove called Sarafina.
It is the oldest and only remaining plot of the once more
extensive cultivated lands of the Di Maggio family. Many of the
olive trees (heavily pruned in 1990) are hundreds of years old.
In August 1997, while on a family visit to Sarafina, I
made a surprising discovery in one of the olive trees. Inside a
knothole in a tree just to the left of the ruins of the old
storehouse (below), something glinted in the sun.
On investigating, I pulled out a large, rusty key. It turned
out to be the long-forgotten storehouse door key, safe in its
hiding place for over 50 years.
I worked hard and did well at school. It was a welcome
escape from an unhappy life at home. I particularly enjoyed
secondary school, an all-boys (then) called Alexandra
Academically I wasn't naturally brilliant, and English was
only my third language (on my first day at primary school,
aged 6, I didn't know a word of English). Nevertheless, I was
a dedicated student and actually surprised myself when I began
doing well at secondary school - both academically and in
In my final year I ended up being the school Dux (top
academic pupil), and I had made the provincial basketball
I guess the most important thing I learned from my school
career is that natural talent is not a requirement for
success. Hard work and dedication can achieve the exact same
(note: my name at school was Mariano instead of Mario
- an error made by my parents [who didn't speak English] when
they enrolled me in primary school. I had my name changed to
Mario on my passport years later)