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.
In weeks like this where work involves a fair amount of travel, I take comfort in dividing my week in half. There are 168 hours in a week, my week starts at 6am on a Monday morning, so the half way point is Thursday at 6pm. The first half of my week has been focussed on work. I have travelled to Plymouth and back and Bristol and back and worked full and productive days. Today I have a good day planned with useful meetings and some discussions with colleagues in the diary.
It’s been very full and very work-focussed though. That said, I have had dinner with a friend, I squeezed in one run, and have done quite a bot of Scouts volunteering, as well as getting some plans in place for family events and the pre-Christmas season. I have also had a good amount of down time watching Netflix (I am obsessed with Gilmore Girls!) and surfing social media. So, it has been far from all work.
It still does not feel quite as balanced as it could be though, so the halving the week is a great comfort. The reality is that I will do absolutely no work at all in the second half of the week, and thinking of my week like that really helps me see the balance. And even in this last half a day of this half of the week (yes my brain does work like this!), I am squeezing in a blog writing session, I have just had a lovely ten minutes thinking through the day and I will manage a run before work. I am also taking some time off to attend a school appointment, so there is family time in the day too.
Just reflecting on how much Scouting and me-time there has been already helps to energise me. here’s to the second half of the week.
I made it through September. I feel a real sense of jubilation at that fact. September is always the hardest month. It is a month of transition from the endless days of summer to the full days of autumn. The mornings are very different to August mornings. Mornings are important to me, as I am sure is abundantly clear from this blog.
Lots of my social and voluntary groups take an August break and then we all try and catch up in September. The challenges we were able to hide from in August suddenly take centre stage again. The teachers start putting pressure on parents to ensure their children are all top of the class. Countdowns to Christmas pop up on my social media feeds – seriously they do, I have a Christmas-obsessed family.
Even the news becomes more serious again, I feel less able to pretend it’s all going to be ok. And as for work – those gentle hours of August where I have the time to think before responding, where I have the space for a bit of creativity – all gone and replaced by more emails and more demands on my brain than I can possibly cope with. And not enough space in my day to stop and work out which fire to fight first.
I also added to September some amazing family weekends and a week’s work travel to Rome, as well as another two weeks of travel in UK for work. What I have abandoned are my friends and Scouting. Which is why I now feel a joy at the new month. Everything that I got wrong last month can be put right in October. To all those who have not seen me for a month, or who are waiting for something from me – it’s a new month. All shall be well. I shall once again be efficient and available. Here’s to blind optimism induced by an arbitrary dating system.
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 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.
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.