I have retreated back into the house from my bed this morning. My bed had moved temporarily into the garden, albeit in a tent. Last night was a record-breaking attempt by Northumberland Scouts to get 65,000 scouts sleeping out of their beds. We have some small tents which fit in the garden, so we all moved out there for last night. Camping in the garden is rather weird, but easy to keep warm, I just kept carrying bedding out of the house until I felt the nest would be warm enough. And then I added a hot water bottle.
As is my habit when camping, I slept badly last night, very aware that I was not in my bed and slightly tense that I am going to get cold. That is a risk in the UK in spring, but I wake up on night one camping in a heat wave in France worried that I may get cold. The habit is very firmly that I sleep badly on the first night and then brilliantly after that. But somehow sleeping badly when camping does not have a huge effect on the next day. I reckon I sleep very soundly in between waking up and checking I am warm.
So this morning I woke up just after sunrise, loving the sound of the birds and feeling very refreshed. The dog was hilarious, overly excited that we were waking up in a tent, but extremely determined that that was enough of the camping and we needed to head back to the house – all of 2 metres away from our heads. To be fair there is dog food in the house and not in the tent. And I admit that I haven’t gone back outside – there is coffee here and stepping back outside made me realise that it is actually quite chilly out there.
But I feel very exhilarated having done something different. I feel like my brain has had a bit of a reset and that can only be good. And I am not working today, so having a nap later is a possibility.
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 last few months have definitely been a work and play focus. The sheer volume of work that happens in January and February takes me by surprise every year. But this year I got through very much by keeping very focussed on work and trying to do a lot of socialising and travelling at weekends in order to make sure I relaxed somewhat.
Now though I am ready to turn back to the various volunteer roles I hold in life. All of which I enjoy and have a different purpose. The CAFOD group at church is preparing for Lent Fast Day this Friday and a Fairtrade wine tasting in May.
The Birmingham Children’s Book Group is part of the Bournville Book Fest this weekend and next and I will be on the Book Swap stall that we run. If you are near Rowheath Pavilion this Saturday or Bluecoat School next Saturday, come and swap children’s books.
My Scout role definitely needs some more attention, although as always with my Scout role, a fair amount has gone on in the background even if its not as visible as it could be. Now though I need to set my sights back on recruiting others who can share their administrative, financial and management skills for the benefit of the hundreds of children who enjoy Scouts every week in Birmingham. How to do that is still puzzling me a bit though.
I have resigned as a children’s liturgist after some years of service. I leave at the end of Lent, but meanwhile am working hard to train and support some new liturgists so that they are ready to take over once I step down.
It is good to be back in the mix, even if all the meetings happening in one week along with a weekend full of volunteering is a bit of a leap back into it all.
I had a conversation with someone yesterday about a volunteering project; it did me the power of good. This conversation ended in a fit of giggles as we allowed ourselves to be a bit ridiculous and find perspective in humour. It also included the other person urging me to write this blog again.
My brain is feeling full and overwhelmed. There is a danger of forgetting what the point of it all is.
I forget that having a family is about hanging out with some cool people all the time, watching them grow and change every day.
I forget that having a job is – because I am very privileged to have a good job which pays me to do something I love and believe in – about using my skills and passions in a professional capacity. It’s about travelling and meeting people. It’s about learning and developing every month.
I forget that volunteering is about having fun, it’s about facing the challenges as a team, leaning on and supporting each other. Very importantly, it really is about finding the fun in those challenges, enjoying putting our heads (and sometimes hands) together to solve the problems. It’s about remembering that any community endeavour will hit bumps, some people will struggle, people will sometimes forget it was supposed to be good fun. We’re there to work out how to support each other through it, to continue to flourish together as a team.
I love the busy, but I do lose perspective. Yesterday’s conversation reminded me that the few minutes I spend to write this are fun, they help in reminding me of all the things I forget. To the other person in the conversation: thank you!
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.
The weather this weekend has been better than anticipated. Which means some welcome time outside.
We hosted a sleepover for a bunch of teens in celebration of an offspring’s birthday. This is a group of tech-savvy teens, usually to be found in front of a screen inside. Yet they spent a large amount of time in the garden. A lot of this was in the dark rather late in the evening and it was not all that warm, but the call of the outside was strong. They were hanging out and chatting on the patio, just because they could. It’s interesting that despite their social lives now being hugely screen-based and indoors, they are still drawn to being outside. Not for a particular purpose, being outside is enough.
On a beautiful spring morning I paid a short visit to a Scout camp, well actually it was Beavers and Cubs, the children are aged between 5 and 10. They were so calm and content to be outside. Wandering around a field or hunting for sticks in the hedges was keeping them incredibly happy.
My own camping season hasn’t started yet, but I too find being outside is good for my soul. Getting a dog was one way to ensure we go out every day, and in the 5 years since he came to live with us, we have indeed been outside every day to walk him, apart from a couple of days of illness and some icy weather this past winter. In fact, when the dog can’t walk, I still go for a stroll myself. It’s not the walking that is the aim, it is being outside.
Now that the weather is better, we will try and eat outside as much as possible, and various people will be found sitting outside on the patio, not for any reason other than being outside is a good thing. Our garden is not well-kept, but it is an important part of our home, full of green. And chairs.
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 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.