I’m switching my focus….

Volunteer - poster concept

I’m having a week off job-hunting this week.  I need to draw breath and focus on other stuff. It can be soul destroying as you send off your application full of hope and then it seems to get lost in the ether never to be found again. I wish that companies would send out a standard response saying if you don’t here back from them in a certain period of time then it’s a thanks but no thanks. Just to manage my expectations; that’s all.

In an ideal world l’m trying to find a part-time or flexible role so I can focus on other parts of my life but again these seem so few and far between, especially at my level. There seems to be plenty in the press about the rise of flexible working and job sharing but I ain’t seeing much in my sector even though I’ve signed up to Capability Jane, Timewise and Ten2Two! You never know, something might be around just around the corner. However on a positive note this leads me on to this week’s topic of volunteering…

I’ve started volunteering for a local charity for the elderly, CHEER and have the greatest pleasure in visiting Valerie once a week.  A very bright, articulate lady who lives in Claygate.  I so enjoy my visits as she tells me about the history of the area –  I had no idea that the America Air Force was stationed in Bushey Park during the war – and we seem to cover every topic under the sun so there’s always a good debate to be had.  Valerie has also had an idea on my social enterprise project which I’m developing (more about that when it’s further down the line) and I’m sure I will be picking her brains further! We chat alot about how she is getting old and the fear and anxiety which sits alongside ageing.  As Valerie so succinctly puts it you spend your whole life working towards something; university, work, marriage, children, retirement and then what…death?  It must be the strangest feeling not having a focus in life and the loneliness that comes with it too.

From the elderly to the young; I’m also hoping to do a few hours a week of PR & marketing for The Flying Seagull Project which I mentioned in a previous post. They are a troupe of clowns, magicians, circus performers and musicians taking smiles to those in need giving children some precious time to be children. They’ve got some great fundraising events lined up and no doubt I will be thrown into the deep end but it’s for a great cause. BTW they also organise the most amazing kids parties so if you are thinking of entertainment, do get in touch as all the profit goes straight to the charity.

So you see where’s the time for work?  I’m sure I’ll be able to fit it in somehow although I am relishing the shift of focus in my life!


My top ten books

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I had bookclub last week and was dismayed when some of the group didn’t enjoy my nominated book as much as I did.  It was A Year Of Marvellous Ways by Sue Winman which I inhaled as the beautiful prose sucked me in. But each to their own! So for a change this week I thought I would share with you my top 15 books (I couldn’t bear to cut it down to 10); in no particular order.  See what you think and feel free to comment:

  1. Weaveworld – Clive Barker: I do love a good fantasy novel
  2. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulkes: No doubt on most people’s lists
  3. The Book Thief – Marcus Zusak: I cried
  4. Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides: Awe inspiring book about an hermaphrodite
  5. Haroun & the Sea of Stories – Salman Rushdie: Children’s book and I think one of his best
  6. The Time Travellers Wife – Audrey Niffinegger: The film didn’t do it justice
  7. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – Haruki Murakami: Mystical story and the book my husband wooed me with
  8. Cutting for Stone – Adam Verghese: Moving insight into twins and life in India
  9. Skallagrigg – William Horword: Author best known for his Duncton Wood series but this trumps them every time
  10. Creative Mischief – Dave Trott: Non-fiction insight into the world of advertising
  11. A Man Called Ove – Frederik Bachman:  Who knew a book could make you laugh and cry at the same time
  12. The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt:  This seemed to be a love it or hate it book but I loved it. You just have to get through the 1st few chapters…
  13. The Mitford Girls – Mary S Lovell: Biography of an extraordinary family during an extraordinary time.  The Kardashians aint got nothing on these girls!
  14. A Year of Marvellous Ways – Sue Winman: Just read it for the prose if nothing else
  15. The Essential Calvin & Hobbes – Bill Watterson:  Can’t help but love these cartoon characters.  How I wish I could be transmogrified

But of course the list goes on as there are authors who I love and treasure; the older novels of John Iriving, Louis de Berneries’ trilogy set in a fictional Latin America and anything by Maggie O’ Farrell, JoJo Moyes and Tracy Chevalier who have to get a mention too.

Thank goodness I have a place where I can centrally log the books I’ve read rather than in old notebooks scattered around the house. Over the past few years I have been using Goodreads.com  but there’s a new app on the block Litsy which I’m going to try out based on a great review EConsultancy.  I’ll let you know how I get on…



Why our confidence falters

Believe in yourself: motivational quote typewritten on a notepad opened on a wooden desk. Positive thinking, incentives, self confidence and inspiration for life.

As I mentioned in a previous post I was going to join a choir and blow me I’ve gone and done it; Vocality in Surbiton were happy to take me on. Bear in mind I haven’t sung in a choir since school and my hubby laughs every time I mention it (at least I make him laugh!) but I have attended every week since.

But the funny thing is, the 1st couple of weeks I went along and sang with gusto but the more I go the more self-conscious I become and have lost some confidence.  I think I am aware that perhaps I can’t quite hit the notes (no music to read –  it’s all through listening to the choirmaster which I find soooo difficult) and what will the people standing next to me think?  Also I naively presumed I would master singing again quickly but I had forgotten how hard it is to sing alto sandwiched between the sopranos and tenors & don’t get me started on breathing.

I know I shouldn’t really worry as we’re all in it together but I do.  At least I’ve been practising with my daughter (husband puts on headphones at this point) so I am familiar with the words and music.

These feelings brings to mind the constant ebb & flow of emotions we go through at work. For example you’re getting a new project off the ground.  Initially we go “Yep we’ve got this one nailed, I can do this”.  Then we actually start working on whatever it is and our confidence begins to dip as we begin to doubt our abilities and perhaps the project isn’t going quite as smoothly as we would like with a few curve balls thrown in for good measure.  You’re left to make key decisions as your line manager knows you can do the job even though you want their support as you sit at your desk gnawing at your nails.

But you work through it piece by piece until you’re on the upward trajectory and the project comes together.  It’s at this point your confidence has grown again as you say to yourself “Wow I did that” and think back to what you have learnt and the obstacles you have overcome to make the project a success. And then another project/ new job/ issue comes along and the confidence cycle begins again. We need to remember with every confidence dip there’s a rise just around the corner.

All I can hope for is that my confidence is on the up at choir this week.  If not, I’m sure it will be soon and to be honest nothing beats belting out a good tune with a group of like-minded people in a beautiful setting.  But promise me you wont come to the concert at the end of the term!


The benefits of walking….for me

Low angle shot of red wellied feet walking over snow covered ground with snow falling and glowing sunset beyond. Shallow depth of field with focus on heel of boot.

I had a change of direction for the blog this week and wanted to talk about my love of walking and how great it makes me feel.  Those who know me, know I love a good yomp – I love urban, suburban and rural, pavement pounding and muddy puddles and they are all good for my soul.

I think it probably stemmed from childhood – being kicked out of doors with my brothers and father so mum had the house to herself to cook Sunday lunch.  Luckily for us a walk ususually involved a pub so there was always a treat midway but we used to trudge across farmland and beautiful bluebell woods.  Then there were holidays in Swanage where we used go on massive all-day expeditions with my aunt, cousins and any other friends and family tagging along.  These were filled with laughter, sunshine and great conversations and I loved that feeling of comradeship and exhaustion from all that fresh air and exercise.

These days my walks tend to be more solitary; some long, some short but they give me the opportunity to:

  1. Be nosy. Nothing beats peaking into people’s houses when the lights are on the curtains are yet to be drawn
  2. Observe life and the seasons around me. Life seems to run at 100 miles an hour and by walking you can see things that you’ve never noticed before; be it architecture, wildlife, people. Go slow.
  3. Be outside.  Yes I enjoy the gym too but being out in the fresh air (even if urban pollution) clears the head.  Also I can be out for longer as it’s less tiring than running and my body shape ain’t made for marathon running!
  4. Discover new areas close to home or further afield
  5. Exercise and it’s free.  Whenever my brother, who works for Handiworld (nice plug for you Tobes!) is in London for meetings he walks everywhere.  He enjoys the freedom it gives him and saves on those rather expensive tube tickets.  It also gives him the time to clear his head before the next meeting. And according to this article in the Daily Telegraph a brisk 20-minute daily walk reduces an individual’s risk of early death by 25 per cent (University of Cambridge research)
  6. Catch up with friends.  I love a walk and talk and it’s a great way to catch up.  I also use this for work too – if I need to talk with a colleague I often suggest a walk.  As soon as you are out of the office it’s easier to talk and rationalise what the issue is and put forward solutions
  7. Come up with new ideas – it’s a well know fact that nobody has their best ideas sitting at a desk. Take a mo to read this article at health.com which explains why
  8. Give myself a sense of perspective. This to me is the most important factor. I tend to stew and get wound up easily and the rhythm of walking allows me to think stuff through and put things into perspective.  My husband now recognises this and if he sees me getting angsty or in a tizz will drop me off somewhere on the way home and by the time I’ve walked through the door all is good with the world again. And vice versa, if he’s working from home and I hear him effing and blinding at the computer I take him for a walk round the block so he can let off steam.  Win: Win

So if you can, step away from your desk and pop out for a walk as often as you can.  And if you can’t escape see if you can walk part of the way to or from work – even regular short blasts will do and observe how you feel. I hope the endorphins kick in for you too.

How does it feel to be out of your comfort zone?

END OF COMFORT ZONE written on Directional wooden sign with arrow pointing to the right against green leaves background. Concept image with available copy space

Happy New Year to you all and I can’t believe I haven’t written a post since October.  Note to self – must try harder this year!

This week’s topic was provoked by a conversation I had with some friends.  We all like the familiar and the routine and it seems, as we get older it becomes even more importantant to us.  I always had a wry smile when I was working PT or on mat leave and trying to organise meeting up with my mother. We rarely managed it as she was sooo busy playing golf, bridge, Tai Chi, hair appointments and the gardening club. I was delighted she kept herself busy (and still does) but frustrated that she showed no flexibility but these dates were as important to her as a business meeting would be to me.

So what happens when we step out of our comfort zone or our everyday routine?  Naturally we feel anxious, not sure if it’s the right thing to do, doubt our ability and the project’s success. And (as I sometimes do) try and adapt the plan to suit me.  However if you go with it, the rewards can be far greater. On reflection you realise what you’ve achieved and learnt and despite the anguish, blood sweat and tears you went through, that sense of achievement is so much sweeter.

It’s not just about work but homelife too – grasping that “sod it” moment and doing something you really want to do rather than what you think you should be doing.  In my case a challenging walk (don’t think my husband and daughter even realised I’d gone!) or deadlifting 80kg both of which I was nervous about but felt fab afterwards, amazed by my level of fitness – even if I did fast asleep by 9pm on a Saturday night.  My life rocks!

So take baby steps and see what’s outside your comfort zone  – you never know what you might find.  Try something new, push yourself that little bit harder, challenge ideas and thoughts at work and who knows what you may achieve. For 2017 I’m going to join a choir (no rude remarks please!), set up a new working lunch forum and reinvigorate my business. Am I going to have some down days? Hell yeah.  Will I feel anxious and overwhelmed?  Of course.  But I hope to come out smiling at the other end.

What about you?