Old poem

18 Mar

I came across a book of my poetry the other day, dusted it off, thought about how it’s been ages since I added anything new in there, then cast it aside.

Tonight I took a look. It’s funny how you see far more meaning in words scrawled out years ago – your mind automatically gives the words a setting, some characters, words unwritten come to life and bam you’re back in 2010 feeling forlorn reaching for the journal…

Since when did home become a place you get a train through?
The long journey started there
You thought you knew the direction of the tracks
How to get there
And the way back
Only to find this messy network of journeys
Some you shouldn’t have made
Some you never quite returned from
Most routine. The best waylaid.
Perhaps at some junction I was supposed to alight
Call that place home, stay put, write.
Stop searching and define where I’ve been heading all this time
But to me that just sounds like the end of the line.

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Time for a mind tidy

2 Aug

I’ve had some brilliant advice lately about how to attain and maintain a tidy mind: the first was to drink Pinot Grigio; the second to sift through, find the things that really matter and act on them even, and maybe especially, when it means deviating from the comfort zone.

Having followed the first bit of advice many a jolly old time and gained only fleeting glimpses of mind tidiness, I thought I’d give the latter a bash.

The thing is, when you start to act on some of those things that have been cluttering your thoughts, you realise just how entrenched some of that thinking really is. A lot of the things, relationships, habits that create negative energy have been doing so over time – growing roots reaffirming their right to mindspace and it isn’t as easy as you might’ve guessed to start digging them up.

Or that’s what they’d have you think…actually it is quite easy. A chance meeting with someone who inspires you. Reading something that blows you away. Learning to think differently – it’s refreshing. It’s like listening to the words of a song you thought you always knew only to realise it means something different entirely. I’ve found the secret to tidying up a cluttered mind is positivity – finding the sources of positive energy and doing more of the things that give you a sense of enormous wellbeing.

So, with that in mind, these are the things that have inspired most excellent mind-tidiness today:

HOTS not MOTS

16 Jul

Three years after leaving teaching and I’m still giving considerable thought to HOTS not MOTS: higher order thinking skills not more of the same.

It doesn’t seem two minutes ago since I was waxing lyrical about the importance of encouraging challenging open-ended questioning in the classroom in front of an audience of teachers – many of whom suspected me of trying to dress up something they’d tried before. Sexy MOTS.

I wasn’t. Put simply I just wanted to talk up, erm, talk. Talk about current, relevant communication – the kind where you learn something from the thoughts, abilities, perspectives and experiences of others. Opening that dialogue up in lessons, getting pupils to take ownership of discussion and take it to new and interesting, and often off piste, places. I was excited by that. My intentions were good.

I never considered delivering MOTS easy in teaching – mainly because I, some might say naively, fostered an environment where pupils would tell me if the lesson got a bit dull. And a MOTS attitude in Communications doesn’t sit easy with me either. Yes, there’s a place for sexy MOTS here – sometimes your face-to-face turns into a Google Hangout, you might dress up your newsletter in an appealing new ebook format and you pin up your posters on your Pinterest board. But I think there’s also a very valid place for HOTS – for questioning what your audience are after, thinking about their reactions to content channels and types, hell for even talking to them. Finding inspiration from others, sharing your ideas, being transparent (but not wholly predictable), listening, and building on those light bulb moments is essential in any context.

So maybe in pursuit of LOTS (less of the same) in my own life, I left teaching, but the principle continues to present itself to me in different guises most days.

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The Rolling Stones at Glasto: A metaphor for IC

30 Jun

Go with me on this…

Whilst musing on the sheer brilliance of last night’s Stones’ performance, it struck me that the prancing, the jazzhands, the persistent whooping audience interaction, the encore wardrobe change and the hypnotically beautiful sound of a crowd chanting classic lyrics back to the band – they could all work together as a metaphor for internal communications.

There’s certainly a lot of prancing. Mick delivered his signature moves with consistent and reliable energy. It’s fair to say that neither Keith nor Ronnie moved much. But then, this is what we’ve come to expect. I’d argue that in internal comms you often find yourself dancing alone. It doesn’t mean those around you aren’t feeling the rhythm or even marveling at your determined chicken strut, it’s just people move in their own sweet way (and in their own sweet time). If you manage to get them clapping along, you’re on to a winner.

Likewise, Jagger’s frequent (slightly irritating) ‘everybody say oowww!’ audience interactions were met with mixed response. Most hollered back for the first half of the set and then grew bored, which resulted in some awkward occasions later on where the crowd actually seemed pretty quiet and subdued all things considered. But what did our IC champ frontman do? He started to mix things up a bit, dropping the audience squeals in favour of harmonica jamming and gesturing jazz hands. Inspired.

The encore was a thing of beauty. An audience filled with renewed passion: engagement. The crowd singing back fondly remembered lyrics: 2-way dialogue. The reverberating echo of the Satisfaction riff around the pyramid stage as the band took their bows: ultimate buy in. Even the choice of encore material – ‘You can’t always get what you want’ and ‘(I can’t get no) Satisfaction’: human and relatable.

I’m going to be channeling The Stones’ IC this week. Join me?

JFDI…or don’t

3 May

Yesterday my beloved described me as gung-ho. I’d prefer to call it determined.

But however you dress it, I do like to act fast on things and make something happen rather than wait for it to possibly come around someday.

I muse on this for two reasons.
1. I’ve recently met a fellow JFDI enthusiast and have been encouraged to act first, apologise later. Completely liberating.
2. Today we might (if we’re brave enough) put an offer on our first house.

Now with point 2 it’s probably worth thinking about consequences and budgeting and financial constraints. But for someone so gung – ho (!) and so disinterested in money (hence bloody awful with it), I’m feeling the desire to plunge into the unknown, murky waters of property ownership responsibility, debt and15 years of staycations. Is it a time for caution? My husband has gone very quiet.

JFDI – a gift and a curse!

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This is 29

28 Feb

On seeing Judd Apatow’s This is 40 last night I came to think of two things. 1) I’m quite proud to share Megan Fox’s thumb affliction (commonly known as club thumb, or a name I much prefer – especially when whispered menacingly – murderer’s thumb) because she is simply a delight. And 2) I get quite angry, to the point of moderate teeth grinding, at people who blame everyone else for their problems.

Forgive me for thinking that the film was going to be about acceptance – a haemorrhoids and all exposé of what continues to happen and what doesn’t change when you hit 40. Really it was about two people who just make the same mistakes again and again placing the blame conveniently on their parents whilst happily ‘accepting’ that they’re awesome. It’s all a bit delusional and hard to relate to – if someone’s biggest problem is that they might not be able to get $5000 for an original Lennon sketch, my heart just won’t bleed.

So I thought about what it means to be 29. And came to a few conclusions…

Your twenties are very overrated. When I looked ahead to my twenties, I imagined living the stylish city highlife complete with frequent drinks after work, nights on the town and a wildly eclectic wardrobe. I think this was based on a blend of watching This Life, getting a taste of the Glastonbury Healing Fields at the tender age of 16 and wanting the life (minus excessive ugly menfolk) of Carrie Bradshaw. Needless to say the twenties are actually a real hard slog: university ends; life starts; bills grow; friends move further apart; family start to have their own families (by this I mean my brother isn’t always on hand to listen to me rave about the new Eels album – the cheek of the man is frankly galling!); your mum actually gets a better social life than you; work takes over a bit and by the end of it you’re left feeling a bit cheated. Don’t get me wrong – during my twenties I’ve met some amazing people, travelled, got a little wiser and met and married a most wonderful chap. It just wasn’t quite what I expected.

It’s actually alright to be a lot like your mum. My mum likes to remind me that as a child, I spitefully turned to her one day to proclaim ‘I hope I never end up like you’. Aside from being secretly half-proud of my youthful brassiness (I like to think I accompanied my words with a Babs Windsor Peggy Mitchell-style point, stare and hands-on-the-hips irreverence), I’m quite mortified. I can admit it now that I am actually just like my mum – I look like her, I sound exactly like her and we tend to listen and give advice in much the same way. There comes a time when you just have to give in and admit that all those things she said did sort of make sense or come to pass. Not that she’s smug or anything.

When people say ‘never go back’, they are talking excellent sense. I’ve heard this so many times in the last decade. Mainly because I had a very on/off relationship for a big part of my twenties and people were not so subtly trying to tell me it should be off. I chose to listen to the romantic few, the unsung minority – those who had rekindled and revisited with great success. But (and yes my knowing mother got involved here) those who said ‘never go back’ really were right and I have adopted it as one of my mantras along with ‘don’t prostitute you principles’ and ‘I wanna live with common people’.

Failure isn’t all that bad. At the time it’s pretty bad. But I find something good always comes afterwards. The day after my dad died there was an amazing rainbow according to my Grandma. She thought it was a sign that something beautiful follows something terrible. Ever since I heard her tell this story when I was young, I’ve loved rainbows. They are mesmeric and other-worldly and I like to think they do have some sort of metaphorical quality. When something hurts or doesn’t go my way, I think of them: if we didn’t have the lows, we wouldn’t feel the highs so keenly.

And all this inspired by a film from the maker of 40 Year Old Virgin.

 

Old friends are the best…

25 Feb

Old Gang

I wish I had a picture of us 15 years ago although to be honest we’ve not changed all that much. A few less spots, straighter hair. There’s two babies in this photo – Laura’s lovely Freya and the one in Natalie’s tummy that she’d only known about for a week. And there’s one of us missing, living in Chicago and playing out her dreams.

But apart from that, not a great deal has changed since meeting in 1995 and going our separate ways to careers and adulthood in 2000. Over the years, some of us have been better at keeing in touch than others – Sue I’m aiming that at you – for many years you were total pants. That said I’m not sure I replied to any texts in 2003 (first year university…no excuse) and Sarah sodded off on the cruise ships for about 6 years. But friendships that were forged in school, amidst the taunts, the tears, the fall-outs (I’ll never forget when Paxton punched me in the face in the textiles room – unbelievable!), the boyfriends (even the ones that hid from you Nat!) and the real belly-laughter at such ridiculous things as a History teacher’s unsightly jacket (Sue and I got literally years of pure joy and hilarity from that) – those friendships are built to last. Even if it means the odd passing thought here and there or the interest in Facebook developments from afar or trying, despite life always getting in the way, to keep in touch and meet up, some people get under your skin and stay there always.

So in the sentimental light of meeting up with my old school gang at the weekend, I wanted to do a bit of a shout out to those people who stay the same even when everything around us changes.

It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.

Ralph Waldo Emerson