A Christmas revival

This has not been my year for blogging it turns out.  However, I have two weeks off work and I think I will dip back in.  First let me explain why I am not been able to write when I am not on holiday.  It is hugely practical, I could try and make it sound like I have been inflicted by a creative inability to be introspective or reflective in writing, because of the sheer time I have alone with my thoughts every day.  But that would be – errr – total nonsense (those who know me in person, know that the word in my head is not ‘nonsense’).

In reality, the reason is much more prosaic.  It’s my eyes.  It’s my back.  Yes.  I suspect it is my age.  Since 16thMarch my life has been focussed on two laptops, a monitor, and an iPhone.  For literally hours every day.  My work life is totally on the monitor and one of the laptops, with a huge amount of video calling in it.  My volunteering life is on the phone and my own laptop, with a lot of video calling.  My social life is pretty much via WhatsApp, text and Zoom.  There are occasional walks with friends and coffees outside depending on what is allowed.  My family life is in person with the lucky pair who still live with me.  With everyone else – yep it’s via a screen.  

I know none of this is all that different to lots of other people, but it has left me reassessing what I do in the downtime.  I started to suffer with eye strain and the thought of starting my day in front of a laptop as a hobby was just not pleasant.  I am doing all I can to overcome the physical stuff.  I have new specs for being on the computer.    I am conscious of moving around as much as I can and walking 10k steps every day.  I stand for some of the calls.   Most importantly I try and move away from the screens as much as I can in the day.  Hence not writing this in the mornings.  The days when I tried to get this written before marching up to the station to get on a train seem like the heady days of abandon now.  So, it feels like a treat to recapture some of that feeling of freedom by writing again in the mornings when I have a bit of screen-free space in the day.  

The variety of glasses needed to cope with 2020

Still running

As coronavirus became a reality in England way back in March and staying at home became a possibility I started to worry about my fitness levels.  They weren’t bad, but I had the nagging feeling that having a good level of cardiovascular fitness may help me if I were to catch coronavirus.  On Monday 23rd March I decided I ought to definitely go for a run, and go for a run every day until either I caught the virus or someone in the family did and we would all have to isolate.  Thankfully none of us have caught the virus – yet.  

And so I am still running every day.  (Except Sundays, on Sundays we go for a long walk to make a Sunday feel different). I am still nowhere near being an actual proper runner.  I run a short distance, slowly. And that lack of “proper” running has been the key.  I run for about 20 minutes, on days when that feels too hard, I run less.  I stop if I find someone to chat to, so it’s rarely 20 consecutive minutes.  I am sure I could do better and more, but I do not want to.  It’s a low bar and so is achievable, even after one glass of wine too many, a sleepless night, when it’s too cold, or too wet, or as in the run ahead of me today – too warm. 

And so this week saw me reach three months of running every day.  Me.  Not a runner.  The girls who got out of every PE lesson she could. Who did not start running until her 40s.  I run every day and am about to buy more trainers because I am wearing these ones out. This week I am feeling a bit amazed, but proud. 


One of the truths of this pandemic is that it has not been equalising, it has not affected everyone the same.  The advice to wash your hands and stay away from other people is the same for everyone, but beyond that, this has never been an equal experience.  I have had an easy time of it, I have a very good income, I am healthy and I am educated.  And I am white.

The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has brought the UK’s attention to the institutional injustices faced by black people in the USA.  I have no experience of being black obviously, but I have been reading and listening to so many black people in our country speaking out about their experiences of being seen as less than human, of being killed, bullied, victimised and so on and sickenly so on.  Because of their race. 

I know that there is a feeling that no one should protest because of a pandemic.  But this pandemic is not fair.  And more importantly life is not fair for black people.  And it should be.  The time to protest is now; to expect people to be quiet because of the risks of the pandemic heaps pain onto pain.  George Floyd was murdered during a pandemic, no one has stopped being racist during a pandemic, so being anti-racist cannot stop either.

I have not chosen to attend any protests myself, a battle which me and my conscious will have to have.  But I will argue for the right of anyone to demand to be seen as a human being with the same rights and respect as another.  I am filled with admiration for those who have taken to the streets.

I am not confident in writing about race. I have never and never will experience racism directed at me.  But not writing about something that is filling my thoughts would be wrong. We desperately need the title, the slogan, the demand of Black Lives Matter, which to my ear is so obvious it saddens me and fills me with fear about our society as it is now.  We need to be reminded by a simple phrase declaring the truth that a black person is a human being and deserves to breathe and flourish and black lives matter hugely.  

It’s spring, but not as we know it

Today is the spring equinox here in UK.  At last the long nights are over, the days will be longer than the nights from now on.  I am certainly stirring much earlier to the sound of the birds in the garden.

I love the equinoxes, and the solstices for that matter, I like these moments where we acknowledge the effects of the sun and nature on our lives.  Especially for this city dweller, whose exposure to nature is more limited.

The start of spring is a time of hope for me most years and today will not be different.  Without hope, this period of distance from others will be hard.  So my focus this morning is on all the good things.

We’ve been without physical Scouting for all of three days in the UK and yet there is virtual scouting happening already and I know many volunteers are putting plans in place to meet up online next week.  Work is moving apace to create activities young people can do at home, but still part of a group.  So much creativity and determination to keep communities together.

Choirs seem to be determined to keep going.  Gareth Malone is creating a virtual choir, a friend has invited me to Sofa Singers and my husband’s physical choir is working on how to move their weekly rehearsal online. 

I have long used Yoga With Adriene at home and now other teachers are moving that way, I have heard of a Tai Chi class being live streamed and have just signed up for a yoga nidra sound bath this weekend.

Online book groups are flourishing apparently and my own Facebook book group has spent the week discussing whatever we’re reading now and recommending books for the time we may have available for reading now.

My son recommended a programme for playing games together (not free), the RSC has made recordings of its productions available online.  There are museums you can visit virtually.  I am sure there will be so many other things we can do over the coming weeks.  For today as we start spring, the creativity and sense of community that is springing up is giving me lots of hope.

Running in the rain

I went out for a run yesterday morning – for the first time in about three weeks.  Winter illness, a lot of work travel and inclement weather all combined to stall the running habit this winter.  Yesterday I was hit with a bizarre determination to go for a run.  Bizarre in that husband was travelling for work, and I had woken up with his alarm in the middle(ish) of the night.  So, I was lacking sleep and my running partner.  And the weather was atrocious – rain and wind.  Not as bad as it has been, but not gentle weather at all.

Nevertheless, I ran.  I ran slowly, I had to keep stopping to retrieve the wandering dog who is less keen on running than he used to be.  I even stopped for a chat with one of the dog walking friends.  But I ran enough to feel I had had a workout.

And it was hugely fun, I had to divert around puddles, I leapt a few of them.  I got wet. Very wet.  But I had enough layers to stay warm and I certainly felt more awake at the end of the run that at the start of it, which was sort of the point.

I felt hugely grateful for a supply of towels on returning home.  For radiators to dry out the very soggy shoes.  For the delicious warm shower to recover. For the washing machine in which I could pile the soaked clothing.

A good mix of exhilaration and gratitude for home comforts to start the week.

Now, has writing this encouraged me to go out for another run today?

Wardrobe refresh

Yesterday I decided to leap out of my comfort zone. A massive huge leap into the world of clothes. I am not a keen shopper, I have always hated buying clothes. As some may remember, last year was a year of buying from charity shops to get me more into the habit of browsing rails with little financial risk.

Friday was a massive leap into “proper” clothes buying. One of my 2019 resolutions was to book a personal shopping session somewhere. It happened yesterday afternoon.

For two whole hours the lovely and enthusiastic Nina from John Lewis in Birmingham soothed and encouraged me through a whole variety of colours, fabrics and fits.

It was utterly exhausting – as moving out of the comfort zone often is – as well as really, really good fun. I have discovered green. And some brilliant trousers. And blouses.

Last night I felt tired and a bit overwhelmed. But this morning it was great fun to go to the wardrobe and pick out a top that fits well and is a bit different to the usual “uniform”

Hurrah for feeling uncomfortable for a little bit.

The crafting perspective.

I am not known for my handiwork skills, nor my practical expertise in gardening or decorating. I tell myself constantly that I am not a practical person in the physical sense.

Yet, I can planned pack for a holiday, I can cook for a houseful of people, I can organise brilliant parties and bake amazing cakes. I can see how a room of furniture could be arranged, I can place plants and pictures in the “right” places, I can choose colour schemes for rooms. All of which are practical, physical skills and I am good at them all. I need to change that narrative in my head.

One of my aims this month was to create space in my day for doing something different, something that does not involve typing on a screen or meeting in a room of people making more to do lists. I decided some more time crafting would be good. I have been trying to sew. It is not neat and tidy, but I am only starting out, so why would it be? It is fun. And a bit addictive.

I have managed to meet up with friends three times in the month to do some gentle sewing or knitting together over a cuppa. A friend and I had a fun afternoon wet felting and making some beautifully wonky coasters. It is a social activity as well as a relaxing one.

Looking at my progress I realise why I tell myself I am no good at it – it takes practise, it takes time. Embroidery, knitting, felting are not skills we’re born with, they’re skills we learn. I am as able as anyone else to learn the skills, but they take time.

Finding the space to sew a bit or do anything creative has shone a light on how I spend my time – a lot of what I do is very similar, both in work and in my home life – organising lists, groups of people, planning, emailing, meeting. It has been fun doing something very contrasting, but it has also given me a real insight into how little variation in activity there is in my week.

A good week

This week has been really full, but an excellent week over all. I’ve learnt some useful things and travelled to some interesting meetings and have hung out with people of all ages.

This week I travelled to London, Bristol and Crewe. I led possibly the most nerve-wracking meeting I ever had and survived, which was important – it was an excellent test in controlling nerves, proving to myself that I feel better if I am well prepared and that I can drive an agenda very well.

I read lots of public transport, I gave myself time for planning things at work, each of the journeys felt very productive. In fact the whole work/not work split in hours felt good this week, with me being flexible as needed and intentional about that flexibility.

I met some brilliant women all older than me with a sense of fun and a curiosity about life. I hung out with a group of 20 somethings, all young enough to be my children, chatting about life this week whilst learning to knit. I sat in a room of Scout leaders with years of experience and boundless enthusiasm and skills between them. I caught up with some old friends.

I saw some theatre from a new young theatre group, I have listened to podcasts galore on driving commutes, I’ve hung out with my Mum and both the children. And I have practised some yoga every day and spent a bit of time journalling and stuck to pretty healthy eating all week.

I’ve managed to fit in a nap and have bought a new outfit for a party – one that definitely stretches my comfort zones but it feels really fun. And I have a brilliant weekend to look forward to.

All in all a week where I am hugely grateful for volunteering in church and scouts, my job which never fails to interest me and the decision to send the offspring to Stage2 Youth theatre, start yoga and go to Slimming World.

The week even included free lunch.

Creating Space

I am trying to focus on a theme of ‘creating space’ this month. Space can of course mean many things and indeed it does to me.

My focus this week was having space in my diary: I am not doing very well – as soon as space occurs, I fill it. I work part-time technically, but I only have one day a week off, split into two afternoons. I combine that limited time off with a habit of booking lots of social events into those afternoons and a tendency to offer to do lots of tasks, as I have a day a week to complete them. My perception of the amount of time I have off work does not coincide with the time it will take to do all the tasks and meet all the friends.

I travel a fair amount in evenings when I am away with work, and yet also manage to fit in meetings either around travel or on the evenings I am not travelling.

I feel a need to leave space, rather than filling each part of the blanks with something else. My aim is to have space for just mulling things over and seeing what comes up, but I have a nagging feeling that having space in the diary will not be the solution, because I really dislike not doing things, I want to be seeing people and feeling useful. Maybe I need to head back to the drawing board on this one and define space in my diary in a way that suits me more?

Losing my blogging way

It’s Thursday and this is the first blog this week, it’s been six days since I last blogged. I have had the time to blog, have found myself in blogging mode – awake, coffee, laptop – but have been distracted by other things.

This could be because the other things are genuinely more important. So far this week, I have had a meeting every evening, and have felt a need to use that precious morning time to sort things out for those meetings, so that may be true.

It could be because I am just not enjoying blogging any more. Also possible. I have been blogging gently for about 11 months now, maybe it’s getting a bit boring? I can’t say I love the new format that WordPress have created, and the lack of access too free photos is taking away some of my delight. I used to enjoy trying to find a photo that in some way illustrated my thoughts that morning. I did toy with the idea of making sure I always took my own photos, but I have no real desire to be a photographer.

Or, I have nothing really to say. I have run out of thoughts . There is nothing to write about. That seems unlikely, I am still able to think and life is no less full of things to write about.

No, I fear the problem is not planning. Yep, everything that goes wrong in my life is generally blamed (by me only!) on me not having planned properly. The control freak in me is dominant as planning is in full swing in January. I am planning furiously for work, Scouts, Birmingham Children’s Book Group, CAFOD group, World Day of Prayer, holidays for the year, theatre visits, offspring’s next step in life, dog’s health, my exercise regime, my Slimming World-friendly food for the day. And there’s probably more that I am planning to the nth degree.

Every morning I sit down to write this, with no plan, I have not totally planned to write on any particular morning. In the midst of a planning frenzy I feel utterly overwhelmed by the lack of a plan in blogging. So I have avoided it. Wrongly, as I suspect having to deal with no plan is a good thing for me.

it’s been a couple of weeks of meticulously planned days – even down to pretty tape keeping my spoon in place. Just no blog plans.