What a difference a year makes…

This past year has been (wait for it many cliches ahead) a real rollercoaster -emotionally and physically. It’s been a journey (yep I went there!) that at times I’ve wanted to get off, to take a break and just watch others ride by whilst I focus on remembering to breathe. Other times it’s been joyful, uplifting and full of such love that I could have burst if that were possible.

Mostly this has been related to my personal life (other blogs to follow if I can find the words) but there has also been one hugely significant change for me – my job.

A year ago last week I started a new job and so this week has been a period of reflection for me. I’ve thought about all those decisions I’ve made throughout my adult life that’s led me to be where I am and to be the person I feel I am today. Sometimes I didn’t know that these decisions would be momentous but I have to admit I knew this one would be – I just didn’t know if it would be good or bad – I just hoped like hell it would be good!!

…Well, it has been! I have gone from working in a place where I spent the first six months sobbing in the toilet every day and towards the end if I got through a week without tears falling it was a miracle, to working somewhere I feel at peace.

At my last two jobs, providing pastoral support in state secondary education, I knew I was doing good, making a positive difference and I’m glad I did what I could; but along with the fabulous highs of seeing my students succeed and achieve, both academically and personally, more than they would ever have thought possible, it was emotionally draining, lonely and absolutely heartbreaking at times; I was taking that home with me and eventually I realised I needed to move on before I lost who I was and before it affected my family more than it already had.

So I took a chance, a leap of faith into the unknown – instead of looking for another similar role that I was certain I could do standing on my head but which would come with significant angst, I found a role at a specialist university that I thought looked interesting, exciting and that I thought I could do well but which would be a challenge.

And oh it has been a challenge! But it has also been liberating, stimulating and working in such a creative, adult environment has been so calming – I’m on a voyage of self-discovery (sorry I’m not done with the cliches just yet!). I’m not saying every day is amazing or that I haven’t had bad days and I know I’ve much more to learn; but I’m loving what I do and I am finally part of a team. I haven’t experienced that utter dread, on a Sunday night, of knowing work is due…I certainly haven’t cried those tears of sheer frustration and solitude.

Life isn’t all about work but most of us spend so much of our days doing work that surely we have to be happy and fulfilled in it if our lives are to have balance and feel good?

So what have I learnt?

Be honest with yourself

Value yourself

Dare to dream – that you CAN do something different if you want, you CAN break free from what you feel confines or brings you down

Believe in yourself

Be brave

Take that step outside your comfort zone

Embrace the unknown

Set sail on your own adventure and see where you end up – whilst it might not be where you’d thought you’d be, you might just find it’s where you want to be after all xx

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Ahhh Autumn, how I love thee…

Bright colours of red, copper and gold glint off trees. The sky is a bright deep blue, the air is getting crisp and the sunlight is clear and somehow brighter, sharper than the glow that envelopes us in the summer (for UK dwellers read caveat: “if you’re lucky that is!”). The smells of Autumn: bonfires and apples, gentle spices like cinnamon and beeswax candles – reassuring aromas that soothe my soul.

It’s my favourite season, I think because it brings back such wonderful childhood memories:

…Walking to school with my sister, scuffling through the piles of leaves and searching for beech masts missed by the squirrels and mice in the fallen husks

…a cup of hot tomato soup steaming in the cold air as we watched the fireworks display on the school field

…harvest festival in the huge school hall and seeing the stage covered in veg, fruit, tins of goodness knows what and then singing favourite hymn ever ‘Autumn Days’.

This wonderful hymn was written by Estelle White, a former nun and music teacher. She believed that you could find beauty in the everyday world and so she penned a song giving thanks to some of the simplest things with the jolliest of tunes.

I sang it to my boys to help them sleep when they were very little and even now many (many) years later if I sing the words “Autumn Days…” one of them will respond back with “when the grass is jewelled” (possibly they’ll roll theirs eyes but hey the point is that they still say it!) and it always makes my heart smile.

So here is a little taste of this hymn for your delight (when listening it helps to try to hear a 200 children singing their hearts out along to this tune full of cheer and goodwill on a crisp golden autumn morning in the school hall… ahhh such very happy Autumn Days!)

https://youtu.be/w9mvrkQbzgc

Thank You Estelle White for showing the beauty in the humblest of things and for my happy memories…

The Cosmos has flowered!!

Yessss!!

It’s true, the Cosmos has deigned to flower…finally! It’s only two blooms but there’s plenty more buds swelling and almost ready to burst open.

The bright pink contrasts magnificently with the mainly green foliage in the beds and the sunshine yellow Dahlias. I do love gardens with a colour scheme – pastels here, bright colours there, mixed evergreens somewhere else – it always looks beautiful, classy…but I have to admit that for me my favourite scheme is just a riot of rainbow colours everywhere!

The Violas I planted a few weeks back are growing and have flowered nicely…today they sparkled like little jewels in the autumn sunshine.

There’s a few bits and bobs to do in the garden now that Autumn has arrived and I have my list of jobs for the weekend:

  • Prune the roses
  • Weed the flower bed and gravel
  • Mow the lawn (if the rain holds off)
  • General tidying of the pots
  • Sow some Allium my lovely neighbour Liz has bought me – purple too, my fave!

I’m watching Gardners World and the mighty green-fingered Monty Don is telling me to plant Hellebores, Pulmonaria and Corydalis (never heard of them but I’ll believe Monty that these are actually plants – after all he’s a genius in the garden) as these will apparently give me spring blues and pinks. Sounds wonderful so I feel a little trip to the garden centre might be on the cards this weekend too!

Whatever you’re doing this weekend, I hope it’s filled with sunshine and that you’re able to spend time in your happy place too xx

Looking out my kitchen window…

Looking out my kitchen window as I wash up; cursing myself for forgetting I’d bought concentrated washing up liquid and having used too much so I’m up to my elbows in soap suds and sneezing at the overpowering scent of artificial lemon stinging my nasal passages!!

I notice a young boy, 14 maybe 15, sitting on my front wall; he’s swinging his legs, heels slamming into the bricks with a rhythmic thud-thud-thud. In one hand he clutches a can, I can’t tell what but he’s swigging away like it’s a favourite nectar. In the other hand he holds the inevitable phone that no one seems to be able to live without. Headphones protrude and I realise he’s swinging his legs to a tune; just as Gloria Estefan predicted, the rhythm has got him and he’s away in his own happy musical world.

The light is fading, dusk is falling and the temperature is too; the boy’s breath steams like hot dragons puffs in the chilly air. The street lamp has gently pinged on and is creating a warm glow overhead, shining on the tree by the edge of my driveway. In the Spring this tree blossoms the most magnificent white blooms but now in autumn it has leaves which turn deep red before scattering themselves in the winter wind. They glint in the lamplight and gently flutter in the evening breeze.

A car pulls up, not fast but the brakes still squeal indignantly as the driver halts beside the boy. Out jumps another young man, baseball hat on backwards, baggy jacket and trousers barely hanging on in there around his bottom.

The boy jumps off the wall and a complicated handshake takes place; lots of slapping, punching, side swipes and eventually a brief one arm half embrace – stiff but familiar.

The car moves off and honks it’s horn ‘Barp-b-b-Barp!’ With a slow casual about turn the boys slink off down the road together, laid-back, chilled and not a care in the world.

The Secret Life of Bletchley Park

I’ve recently read The Secret Life of Bletchley Park by Sinclair McKay and then was lucky enough to visit Bletchley Park itself last April.

Bletchley Park is all at the same time small and unassuming whilst being imposing and awe-inspiring. This contrary impression is evident when you walk through the huts, which you can imagine damp and cramped with the breaths of the many people hard at work steaming like hot dragons puffs in the cold air, and the clacking and clunking of the Bombes so loud as to rattle the ear drums and send you slightly doolally. At the same time the grounds are beautiful with manicured lawns, a tennis court and The Mansion with its impressive library, and formal rooms which call to mind a more ‘cultured’ laid-back scene. Something which is very much supported by the personal memoirs, shared by Mr McKay, of most wonderful music recitals in the main house, chess clubs and dance societies such as the Highland Reels club which were part of life at Bletchley.

Mr McKay weaves an insightful tale about this most discrete of places with the loves, lives, fears and hopes that these extraordinary people experienced during their time at Bletchley. The men and women who worked there, fascinate me. I don’t know if it’s the secrecy and that this community of thousands kept it hush hush, the extreme conditions that they put up with in the pursuit of finding the key to win the war or the code breaking skills that these amazing people employed that I’m most intrigued by? What I liked about this book was that I was able to find out more about the actual people and from their own words.

With its independent chapter structure the story can unfold at the readers pace as it’s easy to delve in and out, here and there depending on mood and time. You can read a chapter about the social diversity of the staff one day and then wranglings over whether Bletchley was civilian or military the next. Churchill has a mention and there’s of course much content on the Enigma and codebreaking. But it is the personal accounts of life at the Park, memories from debutantes, students and service personnel, all thrown together because of their significant abilities and bound as one community forever in time, that are the central focus.

It’s a snapshot and in no way a thorough exploration of the phenomenal code breaking that took place, but it is a good introduction to Bletchley and helps to give context and ‘life’ to the Park by sharing the thoughts and feelings of those most marvellous of people who stepped up to serve.

Can I rise to the challenge?

I’m an avid reader but not necessarily a broad reader…well not as broad as I feel I should be.

I mainly like crime fiction, mysteries and fantasy sci-fi; I’m partial to a classic or two and will read the odd historical especially if it’s a personal account of happenings…there’s something about stepping into someone’s memories and seeing that which we learn about in the abstract at school from a personal and REAL viewpoint.

However, the more I think about it the more I have to admit I’m picky about which authors I read and I’ve a tendency to re-read particularly when I’m in need of comfort. I like popping back to see old friends and when the writing’s good the story unfolds in such a way that, even when you know the ending, you still find yourself invested, finding new aspects to the characters and plots that intrigue and envelope you.

The Discworld is a case in point: not to mention that there’s like a million squillion of them so lots to choose from but it’s got to be my ‘go-to’ place when I’m in need of some solace and comfort – I always get swept away by Sir TPs inventive but oh so very ‘almost too close for home ‘ observations on humans and our weird & wonderful lives! I always find a new dimension to a character, realise a parody is not really acknowledged before and the stories are like a warm blanket that wrap me up and cheer my cockles.

So, that being said I am determined to read more variety – I need to discover new authors – those who are blazing into the literary world and those who are easing in gently; I want to discover old established ones too – books that to my shame I’ve not read and by all accounts I should have read, such George Orwell’s 1984 & F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

Last year I joined in a Reading Challenge and it was great fun… it really pushed me to read something different – for instance I read Hamlet…

Now Shakespeare is, for me, far better on the stage. I admit to sometimes finding it difficult to follow when reading; the different threads Shakespeare weaves have me as confused a fly trapped in a spiders web and then other times it’s like I’m wading through treacle as I can find the pace so sllooooow. But on the stage the plays comes to life…the players show me the wit and vibrancy of Shakespeare’s words, they move at a pace I can connect with and what’s most important is that I generally find I understand!!

A case in point is last September when I saw A Midsummer Nights Dream at The Globe, London and WOW! The play quirky, modern and hilarious and in The Globe setting it made sense…I now get what Mrs Bedford was blithering on about in Year 9!

Anyways, back to the Danish Prince…reading Hamlet, was quite a challenge for me – but I DID IT!! (Can you tell I’m quite chuffed?!) I read through till the end and although I know I didn’t grasp all the nuances and follow every thread as perhaps as clearly my friend Kerry would like (She’s like a TOTAL Hamlet nut!) I think I got the gist of it! I’d not realised quite how many of our ‘sayings’, our little everyday pearls of wisdom come from this play…

I knew about “To be or not to be” but hadn’t realised “To thine own self be true” or “The lady doth protest too much, methinks” came from Hamlet.

…Ahh but every day’s a learning day isn’t it?!

I enjoyed the reading challenge so I’ve set myself a new one.

This time it’s simple… instead of read one book that’s ‘this’ and one book that’s ‘that’ it is just going to be this:

for every book I re-read or every book I read by a favourite author I have to read a book by someone I’ve not read before…simples!

So I start this week…

As I have just re-read Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett (for about the ten millionth time!) I’ve now begun reading The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (yes I know it’s JK in disguise but I’m counting it as a book by a new author as it’s a world away from Hogwarts!). It’s the second in the series but seems easy enough to pick up the character storyline and it’s flowing okay so far…

I shall try to do a book review of each new author or book I read – these may not be long, helpful or indeed well worded (is that even a phrase?) but I shall try…so you’ll all see if I manage to meet my own challenge!

It’s quite exciting actually to think that a whole new world is opening up…I wonder what will be next?

First match of the season…

The wind is whirling, the flags flap frantically

The rain is falling and the ground’s getting soft;

The players are tackling, rucking and mauling

Their minds are focused on the battle ahead;

The supporters, ‘coaches’ each and every one

Willing the players on, hearts and minds cry out…

“Ball’s out! 

Pick and go, Go, GO!!!

Yes…Yes…

Pin your ears back!

C’mon, C’mon…you CAN DO IT!!

TRRRRRYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!”

 

The Rugby season is back, the passion flows…

love rugby