Family connections

I am always intrigued by families, many of us, maybe even most of us, tend to speak about the strangeness of our families, or the unusual connections between different members of the families.  So much so that I tend to doubt the existence of the so-called normal family.  It’s not to be found in my life anyway.

For a whole complex variety of reasons, I have only recently met my extended maternal family, sadly it was instigated in the first instance by a funeral after the sad death at a young age of my cousin, may he rest in peace.

That funeral opened connections, and those connections continued thanks in a large part to social media platforms.

Happily, there are weddings also bringing us together, and yesterday was the second of those.  I am fascinated to discover shared family traits and a whole history I didn’t know about.  It’s a wonderful adventure to learn more about cousins – what their tastes are, what their jobs are and so on.

I am intrigued by my need to find shared traits though, I made it to my mid-forties not knowing if our need to get up early is a family thing – it is.  Or if a stubborn insistence in some of my immediate family to challenge authority is a maternal or paternal heritage – maternal it seems. But listening to stories of cousins and aunts and uncles, I am keen to find patterns.  I want to find me in the stories and the faces.

But much more than being intrigued, I am overwhelmed by their welcome to me.  And looking forward to forging more connections and finding more family links.   Now I need to organise a family party I think. I think it could be chaotic, I know it will be loud (that is definitely maternal heritage), but I am also sure that it will be great fun.

Here’s to family.

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I have regaled with tales of canals, not peaceful green canals, way more Peaky Blinders.

Variety

My husband has long suffered my intolerance of something called a “rut”.  This is my fear of getting stuck in my beloved routines and fossilizing therein.  This is possibly a reasonable anxiety, research tends to show that experiencing new things, having challenges and spending time with a variety of people all help to keep us healthy.

However, I may have an extreme version of this need to not get stuck in a rut.  I fervently hope I am getting less extreme as I age, but I may not be the one to ascertain the verity of this fact.   It used to be the case that if we went to the same restaurant twice I would bleat loudly about how boring life is and that we were ‘stuck in a rut’.  As I say, long-suffering.

This week though, reminds me of the energy that get from variety.  There are lots of new things, mixed up with the routine.  The week so far has seen working in three different locations.  But the same coffee ritual each morning to ground me.

I have had one church meeting of the CAFOD group, one Scouts meeting.  As a family we have been out to a dessert restaurant late one evening after my work trip to London (Pirlo’s– if you’re in Birmingham, go visit!) and also a pub lunch on Monday in between work meetings.

I visited Walsall New Art Galleryat lunch time yesterday for a short curator’s talk on the visiting Holbein, which I love. Seriously love that painting.

We saw the NTLive showing of Nick Hytner’s production of Julius Caesar at the Electric Cinema.  Thanks to everyone who strongly recommended I go to see that, it was brilliant.

The rest of the week contains my cousin’s wedding – I cannot wait, I love weddings and love hanging out with family; Nashville In Concert (my love of that TV show possibly deserves analysis in its own blog) and the potential for a lazy day of reading and catching up on what is sadly the final season of the aforementioned Nashville.

Ruts be gone.

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Inspired by Scouting

Not quite half way through a meetingtastic week and my brain is beginning to fail.  So instead of waking up and trying to write a blog, I decided to do some volunteering this morning.  This is totally possible because I am mainly volunteer in a sort of busman’s holiday style in a few realms.

I am a Scout – not a Scout Leader, I never go anywhere near a campfire (which makes me more sad than I had expected), but instead I am a Trustee of a Scout District.  A large part of that role involves emails and phone calls and meetings.  It’s about overseeing budget, checking that plans fit the aims of Scouting and everyone has the resources they need to create the amazing opportunities that the Scout movement gives to young people. Opportunities to have new experiences, to have fun and to challenge themselves with a ton of support from a group of volunteers dedicated to making sure they are safe and generally having a ball.    I have the absolute luxury of feeling a small part of it whilst sipping coffee and writing emails.  I am humbled by those who are much more active in their volunteering.

Scouts has an interesting image in the wider community, some still think it is a boys’ organisation – it is not and has not been for years.   Some think its old fashioned in its activities.  It’s not, but sometimes it is traditional, but I am not sure that is ever a bad thing.  Surely a bit of a mix of activity is a really good thing?  I have a general concern that we tend to encourage our children to focus on one activity far too early in life, Scouting offers the opportunity to try lots of things, some active, some less so.  Some modern activities, some much more traditional, but not less interesting or useful.  Tying knots stood my offspring in good stead when they did a course of technical theatre, the course tutors were amazed as the offspring capably tied the ropes for the pieces of set.

That said, they have also learnt a huge amount about team working, leadership and how to cope with challenge, as well as so many activities I cannot list them all here.  My mantra for years has been “no, not paying for that, you can do it through Scouts, it will be SO much better”.

And all of this through the dedication of volunteers to the cause of making the world a safer, more enjoyable place for children.  And looking at the leaders – young people who grow into enthusiastic citizens, keen to be an active part of their local community.

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The mystery of a busy week

 

It is one of those weeks where I am doing consecutive travel days, it doesn’t happen too often thankfully, because working in London when I don’t live in the south east of the country feels like hard work.  I am always comforted by the fact my commute is possibly easier than for many who do live in the south east though.

However, as well as extra travel, there seems to be a bit of extra everything.  Why does that happen? A few years ago I came across Laura Vanderkam and her book I Know How She Does It which is a fascinating study of the time of high earning women who happen to have children.  Vanderkam’s premise is that we do all have more time than we think – each of us has 168 hours per week and a few things are true of us all.  Apparently,  we spend more time with our children than we tend to think – we tend to discount mornings for example, or the time spent in cars taking them places.  And we generally sleep more than we tell ourselves we do. And, this is fascinating, we tend to work much less than we think we do.  The key to her work is asking people to track their time for at least a week, but preferably more.  It’s something I have tried to do and am tempted to for the next month or so.

Does this week just feel busy, or is it busier than usual?  Do I just notice it because the travel saps energy, possibly more so than usual because I am struggling with the tail end of a virus?  Or is it because I am getting stuff done, but less time means I am not getting it done perfectly?  My email inbox this morning contains various correction to the notes of Monday’s meeting  – not even close to perfect apparently.

So in an attempt to discover whether this is sod’s law at work actually piling everything into one week when my offspring are lounging around on holiday, or whether it just feels like that, I think I need to write it all down for a few weeks.

Meanwhile – need more coffee.

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Enjoying the books

This is a follow up post to my controversial statement the other day. I am of course not getting rid of all my books, but just the ones that don’t ‘spark joy’ to use Marie Kondo’s concept.

I have by no means finished clearing, but so far, it’s been a great experience.  The pile of books on the landing had some great books in it, which I had just stopped seeing, they were part of the furniture, something that sat next to the mirror, not something to read.  I am looking forward to SJ Parris’s historical fiction.

The space next to my bed contained some real treasures, I started the Claire Balding as soon as I could.

Yesterday I spent a few minutes tackling one of the shelves where I store my old university books – I studied French and German.   That was a real joy.  I kept everything that spoke to me.  So the grammar books are back on the shelf, as are some books which are now history books, but were factual back in the 1980s/90s when I was studying.  Germany was two different countries, odd to think. There were some odd choices too.  The three different versions of the Iphigenia tale all remain (really bright sparks of joy from them), as do the Zola novels in translation and Manon Lescaut.  The latter has me intrigued, why that spark of joy? No idea, I shall have to reread it. There are several Alphonse Daudet novels which were the subject of a project whilst studying in Provence.  I don’t particularly like them, will probably never read them in French – I will probably never read anything in French ever again –  but they sparked joy of memory.

The discard pile really made me giggle.  There are several books by Marivaux.  Who is Marivaux?  I am guessing I must have studied him, so how do I not know?  And I seem to have studied Gerhard Hauptmann, but that made no lasting impression either.

I am really looking forward to tackling the next shelf.

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Walking

I have been dabbling with running recently, mainly because I needed an efficient way to increase my lung capacity and running seemed like the cheapest, most time-efficient method of increasing heartrate as quickly as possible.  I don’t love it, it is a tool to increase specific fitness of my cardio-vascular system.  I can sort of lose myself into the rhythm of the run now, but still, not loving it as a mental escape really.

Walking on the other hand is really different.  I can get into a daydreaming zone really quickly.  I often don’t take my phone.  This is a learnt protection after I went through a period of getting sustained headaches and the optician reckoned it was because I spent even my school run walks (back in the day) answering emails on my phone, or texting – or updating FaceBook. Lesson learnt – our eyes need a total rest from staring into middle distance.   Apparently, the old advice to look away from your computer screen is hugely outdated, as that was based on us only looking at that distance during work hours.  Not every waking hour.

So, walking is now just walking, letting my mind wander, enjoying chatting to fellow dog walkers, saying hi to a few people, listening to the birds.  Not really being any more productive than that.  And I love it.  This week I am reading Claire Balding’s book about the Radio4Ramblingsprogramme, Walking Home.  It is really lovely, I like her writing style and love the radio programme.

It is also inspiring me to plan to walk a long route – not all at once, but in chunks over a year.  I was dragged around part of the Pembrokeshire Coast path as a young child (about 10!) and have memories of that being very hard work.    But Claire Balding’s descriptions of the benefits of a longer hike are appealing.  I seem to remember St Kenelm’s Way being a local possibility.  Need to do some research I think.  And brush up on map reading skills.  And replace my boots.

 

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De-booking the house

I can hear the cries of outrage from two friends in particular as I write this (not sure they will read it, but I know they will feel so strongly, that they will sense this anyway).   I intend clearing book shelves this afternoon.

I am very much loving reading at the moment, really loving it.  I suspect one of the reasons is that I am also not buying new books.  I have a habit of heading into a bookshop and buying various books, which I have no plans to read right now, in fact sometimes I wonder why I ever bought them, as I can’t foresee ever having a plan to read them.  Amazon is even worse for this.  Someone recommends a book and it appears like magic in my home the next day.

At the moment I am borrowing lots from the library and a couple from friends.  I am listening to a few on Audible, which is even more magic than Amazon, but I share my allocation of credits with the whole family, so that gives me pause before ordering.

I have even bought a couple of Kindle books, just because they were very cheap.  And I read them immediately.

The ones on the shelf are not helping me love reading though.  I’m not sure I have that many books in total, definitely not compared to some.  But I am sure I have a higher proportion of unread books.  My brain seems to think that buying a book is the job done, I never bother to read it.

I borrowed Marie Kondo’s Magic Tidying Up Book (that is not its actual title, this is the version that has lodged itself in my brain): the book is a fascinating insight either into Japanese culture (I quizzed a friend on that) or a fantasy world; it did not really inspire me to origami my clothes, or to start talking to my handbag.  What it did do was give me the confidence to know that I really do not need to keep things that do not serve a proper purpose. That is greatly adapted as Kondo only keeps things that spark joy.   A sense of purpose is enough for me, but where I am in agreement with Kondo, a sense of “but I really ought to read that someday because…” is not.  What I did love about the book was the mindfulness of choosing what to keep, of having your home filled with stuff you have chosen and therefore treasure, not just things that we acquire.

So, book clearing it is. Hopefully it will inspire me to read more of the books in the house. And the resulting left overs will be sold to raise funds for CAFODin a couple of weeks’ time.  If you have any books to donate to the sale…

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