It’s been an exceptional year of holidays of all lengths and types. We’ve managed short breaks as a couple, holidays with friends and family; activity holidays and chilled out breaks.
I have no idea why this year has been so holiday-focussed and can’t honestly say that it was intentional. But it has been great fun. We were in Edinburgh this weekend and spent a lot of time discussing how much we love trying out living in a new place. Being a bit further away geographically enables me to take a bird’s eye view of life and to check all is well. Somehow whilst living that life at home, I struggle to examine it.
Everywhere we go there is a conversation about whether we want to move there. It verges on obsessive. I was slightly concerned that it’s a symptom of being unhappy where we live now, which we are definitely not. In reality, it’s a good way to reflect on what we could do better- maybe spend a bit more time lingering over coffee and newspapers in a local coffee shop, or mooching around excellent museums, or walking along rivers (or canals in Birmingham terms) to get a break from city architecture. All of these are tiny tweaks of course. More than that, it’s a great way to discuss everything we would miss too much about where we live – there is a lot.
Admittedly the idea of living in an amazing Georgian flat in a European capital city, spending the days walking for miles with pit stops at lovely independent coffee shops and evenings putting the world to right over excellent cocktails in interesting bars and great food in friendly local restaurants is hugely attractive. Of course, I can’t actually afford that lifestyle for more than a few days. And that’s ok – I am home again now in a house and community I love and back to the job I love, and starting the saving for the next holiday.
This weekend has been a delicious treat. It has involved work. I rarely work at weekends any more, but when I do, it is always doing the parts of the job I love the most. Speaking to people about why I do my job, how it fits with my faith and my life view and how much my small actions – combined with the many small actions of my audience, are tangibly changing the world for the better. These are opportunities for me to lift my gaze above the day to day and give me perspective. Sorely needed after last month.
I am away from home, on the south coast in Torquay. Delightfully, “home” agreed to come with me for the weekend. We are all feeling the length of winter and are tired and stressed.
Time away turns out to be just what we need. Without really deciding to, we have made the very most of hiring an AirB&B for the weekend. I have resisted doing my usual thing of insisting that we all get out and see everything. Instead, we are going with the flow. Which is restful. The dog is struggling with arthritis, so the walks have to be short. The nights are long and cold and we have bowed to Mother Nature and stayed indoors, cosy and companionable when it’s dark. The sunshine has been tremendous and we have had plenty of it – but gently. Everyone was sleep deprived this week, so we’re catching up on that too.
I was feeling overwhelmed because I have not had much planning or yoga time this week. Instead it was a week of having meetings which created more tasks to do and took away the time to do them. After finding time yesterday to plan February I am feeling better. Plus I found half an hour to get on a yoga mat. Spending some time breathing properly undoubtably helped.
Right now it is getting later on a Sunday morning. No one is stirring. I am staying with this flow though and me and the dog are enjoying just being, catching up on a load of blogs I usually read, now writing my own (on my phone) and in a minute that yoga mat will come out again.
I was aiming for an early morning walk on the beach today – the need to see everything and do everything is not quite gone! Instead I shall just be with whatever is actually happening now. The beach will still be there later and the cafe will serve elevenses as well as they do breakfast I am sure.
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!
Feeling as frazzled as I am, I need to head into the weekend with a strong sense of intentionality, so I have an aim over and above the list of appointments. My aim is to “settle”, to find a sense of everything being ok overall.
I think everything I have booked into the weekend will fit into that. There is a lot planned though, so I am trying to reframe it into feeling like a refreshing and reviving weekend. It all starts with an amusingly titled appointment to “eat large cakes”, which is an attempt to treat offspring doing exams at the moment. And it is a good thing to see first thing in the weekend diary.
Add to that a delicious evening catching up with friends at an evening of champagne tasting. Oh yes, champagne tasting; I would love you to think that is a normal Friday evening for me, it’s not. But I am loving that that is what I am doing this weekend.
Then I have a lot of new things and learning in the plan – a happiness and wellness conference and seeing some new writing at the theatre. To be honest the theatre sounds a bit harrowing, but I have been meaning to attend the RSC’s Mischief Festival for years. This is the year. Although, maybe getting out my head into some real problems will help with getting some perspective.
To balance it all out is a day of resting and relaxing with family to celebrate some of the fathers in the family. That will definitely be less relaxing if I forget to do the shopping for it, though. I do need to keep an eye on the boring chores as well as the fun stuff. That said, I do feel I need to take a couple of days off some of the other chores I have surrounded myself with and rest a bit.
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.
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.