I love green, being surrounded by leaves calms me and makes me feel I am miles away from a city, not in the middle of suburbia. One of my goals for this spring was to make a quiet place in the garden and we did that this weekend, creating a seating area at the bottom of the garden.
It’s not quiet because it is far from the house, but because it is surrounded by green, which makes it feel quiet. About 10 years ago we planted a new hedge to disguise the fencing panels. A decade on and we have a wild looking, huge beech hedge interwoven by a rampant jasmine plant and an even wilder field maple and something else hedge – I forget what the other tree was, but it is green, the birds love it and I feel as though I am in a wood when I am near it.
The cotoneaster hedge which was there when we moved in is less interesting maybe, but the dunnocks love it and it is huge and old and serves to stores old branches and twigs under, I have no idea what lives in that pile of branches, but hopefully someone has found it useful.
A couple of years ago we pulled up all the flowering plants in our two borders which we were so hopeless at weeding around and looking after and planted some fruit trees instead. And then promptly did not weed around them. The husband did a grand job this weekend of weeding and mulching one of those borders, which looks beautiful now.
And he built the seat that is now installed at the bottom of the garden. Which gives a whole new perspective of the remaining unkempt border. The poor cherry tree in the middle of it is surrounded by all sorts of plants which have resolutely refused to disappear. From the top of the garden it looks a mess, from the bottom it looks like an interesting wild border, with bees buzzing, some flashes of colour and a sense of lushness. We have decided to let it be for another year and see what happens.
Creating my perfect garden has involved clearing the path through it, so I can carry a coffee without getting caught on a bramble, and putting even more seats into it, so I can sit and drink the coffee anywhere. It’s not a gardener’s garden, it’s a sitter’s garden, perfect for taking a break and sitting in the green. Perfect for me.
Pastimes are funny things aren’t they? We all manage to find something to do with our time, but I wonder whether we choose them or fall into them really. I am in the choosing category. I am considering a new type of volunteering, but am deciding against it as it involves meetings, managing processes and strategies and well, fairly much what I spend time doing at work. I have spent various evenings this week at meetings and that does not feel like a hobby.
I think I am looking for some very specific things from a hobby. It needs to be something different from what I do at work, so less about doing something that directly builds my business skills and more about being practically creative or physical.
Learning new and different skills is important to me too, I am challenged by my job and a lot of the volunteering I do, but I would like the challenge of learning a totally new skill, not necessarily getting good at something, just trying to learn it. And I am certain I am not looking for a hobby for life, I just want to try out some new things.
I am fascinated by how people fit hobbies in. Someone I know has interests as diverse as Scouts, photography, pyrotechnics and trains, alongside working and having a beautiful family. He may even be reading this in a spare moment. It’s impressive and it’s that diversity I am aiming for.
Interestingly people I meet in Scouts seem to have very diverse hobbies, I think it is because as an organisation Scouts encourages acquiring a wide range of skills for life and offers a taste of many potential hobbies.
I spend a good deal of energy trying to reduce our energy use as a family, I am regularly turning off lights, chargers, TVs, all that sort of thing. Sometimes though I forget to switch off my own brain. It’s not quite as easy as flicking a switch. Ooh it riles me when I write that – it really is as easy as flicking a switch, why is that so difficult for my housemates?
Anyway, back to switching off the brain. I finished a work day by continuing to work on a train journey and then switching to doing some volunteer work via emails and some thinking about a new project.
I didn’t stop when I got home and did some more thinking and emailing (apologies to those Scouts who I inundated with emails last night). I headed to bed later than I should have, but I did go through the usual rituals and I did unpack my case, so I thought I was well settled.
Nevertheless, I started to wake early, possible about 04.30 and my brain was already back in the Scout emails I had been occupied with last night. Not in a bad way, not worried or anxious, just back in that zone. I gave up trying to sleep at 05.30 and have done the emails before I can even settle to this. I don’t feel tired, I feel productive. I will not at 2pm this afternoon.
I am guessing that settling down to watch an hour or so of TV last night may have helped. It is these times that TV is perfect for moving my brain into a different space. It honestly did not occur to me to switch the TV on.
Or maybe I just need to accept that sometimes I just don’t sleep as well as I need to, and today will be hard, but it’s one tired day. I will of course be fine.
I went to a yoga class last night for the first time in a long time. I love going to yoga classes. About 18 months ago I started to attend regularly, but have been a bit lax in attendance lately, mainly due to work commitments.
Last night’s class was a mix of yin and yang yoga. Yin yoga is a recent discovery for me and I love it. Oddly it is everything I used to dislike about yoga – trying to stay still with physical discomfort. There is no way I would have enjoyed it a year ago, but yoga has taught me that everything passes, don’t fight your reality right now, instead accept it and relax. If you can manage that, it hurts a bit less. I say hurt, it’s not pain, it is discomfort. And it is discomfort caused by having bad posture and not moving and stretching enough during the day. My body thanks me for living with the discomfort. But doesn’t thank me until afterwards, there is no instant gratification.
All great lessons for life.
I enjoy being with other people in the classes and the teachers surprise you with new routines or postures, which adds a mental challenge. I am determined to make the time to attend more often now and hopefully that will inspire me to get the mat out at home more often.
PS in a reflection of my gorgeous bank holiday weekend, I found myself sort of dreaming in shavasana (the final relaxing pose) that I was holding a champagne flute in my right hand. I needed that yoga.
I spent a couple of hours yesterday on a Scout camp. Just visiting and possibly not helping much in that I kept taking leaders away from their activities to chat to me. It is of course a perfect weekend, weather-wise, to be outdoors learning new skills and making new friends. Every young person looked relaxed and engaged in an amazing variety of activities.
And it was that relaxed part that intrigued me. I have written before about why I am involved in Scouting – learning skills that don’t fit neatly into a government-prescribed educational curriculum and being part of a community are important for me. But what I noticed yesterday was the comfort with which the young people were doing nothing. Not all of them, but in any activity, there is some waiting your turn. At the shooting range a group of children were just sitting and watching whilst the rest of the group took their turn. A couple of girls were “just chilling” whilst their peers finished cooking something over a fire.
Even if you’re not a parent, it will not have escaped you that our society finds it very difficult to just sit and be, not being entertained by a phone, or a tablet, or even an e-reader. Just sitting and being. Never mind our children – how many adults can now sit on a bus or in a café or in a waiting room and do nothing else, just sit there? My challenge to myself is to not impulsively reach for my phone if my companion in a café nips to the loo. I find it difficult. And spend the time looking at everyone else who is alone staring at their phones. And some people who are not alone.
But yesterday those Scouts were happy to be just chatting in the sun. I am sure they were much less calm and quiet once they piled back into the marquee to be fed their roast dinner by the amazing team of caterers. I was safely at home staring at the phone by then.
I now have a muse in this blog writing. I have just asked the husband if we are supposed to be running this morning; we try and run three times a week. We spent yesterday at a wedding, so it was a late night and there may have been Guinness and gin involved in the day, so we feel a bit slow this morning. And he got in one more run than me this week due to the vagaries of work travel , so he has got to his three runs.
So the answer to the query to this morning’s running obligation was an emphatic, “no we’re not.” I know we are supposed to be running, but the emphatic response was followed by, “I thought we should take advantage of the Bank Holiday and ask why do today what we could put off until tomorrow”. That is possibly not the way to live the whole of life. But it is a great way to really relish the Bank Holiday weekend, we have a whole three days to fit in everything we usually do over two.
It is three days of sunshine in which to enjoy all the lovely things we do at weekends. Sounds like most of it will be at walking pace rather than running. In itself that is a holiday from the usual pace of life and just what long weekends are all about.
The photos that accompany these blogs are generally not mine, they are from the free photo stock on WordPress. This is because I am not good at taking photos. Technically the photos I take are not great , probably because I never really think to take them., so I get little practise. I love photos and love it when people share their photos with me, but I don’t get around to taking them myself very often. Sometimes I have a phase of taking lots of photos, and then I forget again. I can go weeks without taking a single snap.
Every time I choose a photo to illustrate this, I regret my lack of photography and I have considered trying to take more photos as I go through my day. In reality that is another challenge and this was about writing, not photographing, so I am trying to resist the temptation to turn this into a bigger task. Keeping things simple does keep me happier. My aim is to write a blog nearly every day. That is what I am doing, so I am persuading myself to rest in that satisfaction for now.
I have a similar view of running, I don’t run very far or for very long, I still cannot get to 5k. But I run, I run three times a week, every week and six months ago I had never run before. So that is an achievement and I feel proud of it. The fact that I am not trying to do more is ok for me, I am getting some cardio vascular exercise, I am getting fresh air and that is all I need.
Keeping a habit easy to do feels like a key to keeping the good habits going.
I am a bit obsessed with an author called Laura Vanderkam, who writes about time management. Her premise is that everyone has 168 hours per week and we have choices with what we do with the vast majority of those hours. Her recommendation is to work with all 168 hours, not just 24 at a time.
Reading her books led me to examine how I use my time. Vanderkam actually writes down how she uses her time every day, in half hour chunks, She has been doing so for three years constantly and it is a fascinating study, which she discusses in a recent podcast. I would love to do this, but something makes me stop. Not quite sure what though.
One thing that I have taken away is the realisation that the mornings are long. We wake up early in this house, so a lot can happen before work. We have made chatting and walking the central point of our morning and not chores. Deciding not to leave the house tidy and organised was a conscious decision. It has made time for hobbies, some quality time as a family and exercise. And the dishes get loaded into the dishwasher when someone comes home. In fact, it is exactly the sort of chore we need in that transition time into evening from work. Along with laundry and the general tidying. All a bit mindless, all perfectly doable in the low energy hours of the day. Or, and this was a radical change in my head, most can be left until Saturday when everyone has more time to waste. Yes, waste!
I am sure there are other changes I can make, I must get to actually tracking my time to see where those gaps could be. I haven’t actually stretched out any time in the morning of course, but it feels like we do so much more.
I am an organised person, I like lists, I like thinking through processes. But the more I think about it, the more I realise that I don’t get any energy from that part of my work and play. It’s the people part that I love.
Last week was a combination of work meetings and evening meetings for various volunteer roles and little time in between. I was filled with a rising sense of panic that all the many meetings I have attended this month have needed some process before and afterwards, but I couldn’t find the time for the process.
I possibly don’t plan for the process, but will always say yes to a meeting. Why? Someone said on Thursday “it’s all about just sitting down for a chat and listening to each other”. It really is, isn’t it? I have met so many genuinely interesting people, with interests, skills and expertise so far removed from mine. I find it fascinating and energising and I am a bit addicted to “just having a chat”.
The week culminated in a lovely day of “Just chats”, one with a colleague in an informal meeting, just chatting about stuff at work. It was potentially the most productive meeting of the week. Swiftly followed by just chatting with offspring about how the week had gone, which led to a bit of a light bulb moment for me. Then a bottle of wine and a chat led to some other ideas of future projects. And culminating with a meal and chat with the husband I have barely seen this weekend, which prompted some other plans.
So many thoughts and ideas and plans. Now I just need to focus on the process to make them happen. If you are waiting for an email from me, I am spending the weekend catching up, but do feel free to nudge me. Plenty of good intentions here, but you know what they say about good intentions. And if anyone suggests a meeting, you know I’d much prefer that to an email.
I am having trouble writing about anything but yesterday’s St George’s Day Parade for my local Scout District. I volunteer in the background of Scouting as a trustee and so have got to know some of the other trustees and leaders in the area. Some of whom read this blog. One group’s farewell was “we want to read about this in tomorrow’s blog”.
But it’s not just my need to obey orders (subject of another blog?), but actually it was a really fun morning. The beauty of Scouts, or any volunteering in any community group, is feeling part of a community. Being recognised, being greeted, feeling a part of something.
Yesterday about 400-500 Scouts and their volunteer leaders all paraded around Cannon Hill Park, possibly my favourite place in Birmingham. There was a real feeling of community, amongst young people and all their accompanying leaders and parents. The whole thing is supported by a brilliant tech team, who just get on with their roles of setting up sound systems with great humour (and demand blogs) and a great team of organisers creating a day where young people really get to shine.
Young people led the celebration, it’s a cliché I know, but whatever else is happening in the world, watching two young people speak clearly, confidently and incredibly well in public – from a bandstand in a park for goodness sake, with hundreds of people watching and potentially hundreds more in the park hearing it – is a huge hope for the world. Those two young people are out there being a positive part of their local community. They are world changers. As is everyone who goes out on a Sunday morning wearing a uniform to parade around a park on a Saints’ Day, just because they want to celebrate their community (St George is the patron saint of Scouting) which is built on the premise of helping each other and having fun whilst doing it. My fervent hope is that community grows, involving more young people in South Birmingham, coming together, having fun, changing the world. All are very welcome.
PS I keep repeating ‘volunteer’, as it amazes me how many people are very aware of Scouting, often their children attend groups, but still think the leaders are paid – they are not. None of them.