Balancing act

The new season is off to a good start and it is full of all the meetings and all the to-do lists and all the chores.  I am determined to find balance this month between times filled with tasks and time for not doing very much at all.  

The weekend has been a good example of that balance, although I lacked sleep and exercise, which I am paying for this week.  The weekend was the lovely Moseley Folk & Arts Festival and despite the weather (ridiculously chilly) it was a very calming and enjoyable weekend.  It’s a weekend of switching off and not doing much except being entertained by a whole variety of musicians and catching up with friends we bumped into.  We worked out that this is the eighth year in a row that we have been to the festival, so it’s safe to say that it has become our traditional way to end the summer season.

In amongst the festival were various Scouts meetings and a meeting of the Birmingham Children’s Book Groups.  All were very productive and we have great plans to put on events, support others better etc. 

The challenge this week is that I am a bit sleep deprived after the weekend and have eaten less well than I should have and not done as much exercise as I could have – all of which is lowering energy levels.  Yet I have another week of meetings and that to do list looms large. Time to stop writing and either go and get some things done, or do some exercise to get the energy flowing again. 

Last weekend of summer

It’s our traditional last weekend of summer this weekend.  Moseley Folk Festival always happens the weekend after the bank holiday weekend and usually the weekend before school starts again, so for the last several years, we have seen this as the end of the summer period.  

Am I a huge folk music fan? No, not really, but I do really enjoy live music.  The location in Moseley Park is lovely, a weekend surrounded by trees and water.  This year the festival promises to be bigger, not a positive in my eyes, as I have relished the tininess of the festival – from one spot on a picnic blank, you can see pretty much all the site.  There is a familiarity for us – we know which food we like to indulge in, we know roughly where we want to put that picnic blanket, we feel soothed by the routine.

This year I decided that we would not go, we would try and change the tradition, maybe just go for a day instead of a whole weekend.  Then reality hit, I am not one that likes to feel I am in a rut, but you know what – I love this tradition, it’s a lovely way to mark the transition into a new season. I will spend the weekend not doing much, just thinking thoughts, sharing time with family, listening to good music and eating good food.  A good way to gather energy for the full season ahead. So off we head for the weekend again.

“Back to school”

This week is my back to school week.  There is no literal school involved at all, I no longer work in a school and my own school days ended 30 years ago.  Nevertheless, this time of year fills me with the anticipation of a new start, so my thoughts are turning to new challenges.

Which is in itself a challenge as I am trying to not take on more things, but to create space in my week, where there is nothing scheduled.  So classes in machine embroidery or ceramics are not appropriate – however tempting they may be.

Instead, I am turning back to all the things that have been abandoned over the summer.  

I lifted the lid on the piano last night for the first time this summer and am committing to a lot more practice this term.  The laptop has come out this morning, and typing this blog feels like heading back to a good routine after such a prolonged break from it.  The end of this week sees various Scout meetings to plan new challenges and I have an autumn of Scout training ahead of me as I really start to get into a new role.  I have rejoined a book group I had taken a break from, the next book to read has been ordered from the library.

My new term will not contain anything new, but picking up the things I let drop over a long summer feels exciting anyway – after all I know I love doing all these things.  Children’s return to school may involve a new school, teachers or subjects, but ostensibly they are heading back into a familiar routine, so my back to school is not too far from reality.  Now, all I need is some new stationery and a new bag…

Memories of space travel

Today is the anniversary of the launch of the Apollo 11 mission to land on the moon.  Radio 4 have done an interesting piece looking at it from the view of women involved, Buzz Aldrin’s wife and the one woman who was in the launch control.  It’s good to hear unusual memories of a well-known event.

Which led to my own memories of visiting the tourist attraction of Kennedy Space Centre, my favourite Orlando attraction.  In a coincidence, yesterday I came across photos of our last trip there in 2007 – the only one we have made with the offspring.  In the photo, one of them is touching a piece of moonstone with a very funny look of “oh hurry up and take the photo” look on his face. 

The visits to a tourist attraction were the first thing to come to mind, but then I remembered that I have also seen a shuttle launch!  We watched the launch of the shuttle Discovery along with the oldest person in space, Senator John Glenn, who, aged 77, was part of the crew as payload specialist looking at the effects of aging.  

I can’t remember where we stayed or how long before or after the launch we were on the coast, but I remember the day being long, there being a lot of waiting.  This morning’s research tells me that the launch was quite late in the day, my memory does not give me any of those details.  I also discover it was 29 October 1998.  

It was one of a series of amazing experiences in the 90s for me, and I have loved dragging those memories up this morning.  The launch was tear-inducingly awe-inspiring.  Obviously, we were miles away – the shuttle on its launchpad was a dot on the horizon. And then the launch rockets fired. I still remember the relief that we were miles away from the incredible noise and heat.

As I get older myself I marvel more and more at a 77 year old volunteering to go on such a trip, but even in 1998, in my mid-twenties, the thought of someone revisiting his earlier life and having this adventure in his eighth decade on the planet was so impressive.  I am not great at keeping mementoes, but I did keep my ‘Godspeed John Glenn’ t-shirt for decades (that is my equivalent of treasuring it for a lifetime!).  I still have a feeling of total awe that humans are able to travel into space at all, and the feat of engineering that gets them there is astounding, to say nothing of the humans who actually go into space.  

This is a rambling journey through memories of an event decades ago, but one that has me marvelling at how much my life has contained.  It’s good to take the time to think back and reflect.

Mornings are changing

Since September 2014 my morning routine has been shaped by school timetables and the need to support the offspring to be somewhere at a certain time.  Over the past few years, the mornings have been marked by a family walk at a specific time as we shared some of the morning dog walk/run route with the teens walking to their bus.  It has been the perfect shape for my morning; plenty of time for coffee, writing blogs, preparing for work, then a specific time to get outside for exercise.  

I am good at planning, I am very aware of what is working well for me and what I would like to achieve in my mornings.  Nevertheless, it feels a bit difficult this morning.  That’s it, no more school in the family.  Work will start in September, but that is 11 weeks away and I cannot even begin to guess what that routine will look like, so I am focussing on this chapter.

So far it feels a bit the same as usual I have to say.  Except there is no teenager to drag out of bed – those with a knowledge of teens will know their sleep is heavy and it can take a while to rouse them and check they did get out of bed.  So that is an extra 5 minutes of morning gained so far.  

I am determined to keep to the usual time of blog writing, but the moment it’s over, I have to face the lack of routine, so I am extending it by fetching another coffee, following an email link down a rabbit hole.  I have discovered the husband tidying up the “Tupperware” cupboard – that is obviously what has filled the lunch-making void for him. 

I am suspecting a joint reluctance to make ourselves go out for a run.  The family walk made us leave the house, now we need to make ourselves. And we need to relish this new chapter with all its opportunities and its space to be filled with new ventures.

So I’m done – time to shape those new venture.

Learning all my life

I am thoroughly enjoying a new role in Scouts as a training advisor.  I am supporting volunteers in reflecting on and increasing their skills.  Scouts courses are really high quality and informative, either online or in a course.

You combine the course content and the experience of others around you and what you already know and put it all into action.  Learning by doing feels like a great way to learn something like building rafts, map reading, identifying trees.  

I want to make sure that volunteers know that they can access all of this great training.  For any of us, taking some time to think about what skills we have and how they can be transferred, or reflecting on what we would like to learn next and working out how to go about it, is not something we do easily, it never feels like a priority.  I want to encourage people to spend just a few minutes checking what they are learning, and what they want to learn next and to show them just how very skilled they are.  Believe me, Scout volunteers are hugely skilled – amazing, inspiring people.

Learning has always been a priority for me, but more so as I get older.  I get a real buzz from learning something new, it was why I volunteered with Scouts in the first place.  It’s uplifting to be involved in an organisation that sees learning new skills as a lifelong passion for all.  The more we can create an atmosphere where people enjoy learning for the sake of acquiring skills for life and increasing their own confidence and resilience, rather than to acquire a paper qualification, the better.  And demonstrating that to the children in our local communities will reap rewards far into the future.

The joys of the city.

I know I write about this a lot, but living in Birmingham is a real joy for us as a family.  There is of course a lot of bad about the city, if I may be political (I don’t need your permission actually dear reader), a policy of austerity shows its effects on a population of a million fairly dramatically. There is a lot of good though. Green spaces, cultural events, community organisations.

All of that came together yesterday in a lovely, if under-publicised, Song Festival, held at the Birmingham University Green Heart – an outdoor amphitheatre which has just been created.  Choirs from all over the Midlands were invited to come along and sing with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Simon Halsey and the mesmerising Music Director of the CBSO, MirgaGražinytė-Tyla.  To be conducted by world-renowned conductors and accompanied by an internationally acclaimed orchestra is one of those opportunities that living in a city offers.  

We were able to cycle to the venue, off road pretty much all the way, surrounded by green and birdsong. The rain stopped long enough that it was a pleasant, although chilly, evening.  Sitting outside surrounded by modern and Victorian architecture and listening to beautiful varied music and witnessing the joy of hundreds of people singing for pleasure together was a beautiful way to end a Sunday.