Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Stepping off the merry-go-round

Day 23 (Wednesday 23rd December 2015)

23% of men (compared to 33% of women) would contact their doctor if they had felt low for
at least 2 weeks (according to research by 
Mind). Suicide is the biggest killer of men aged between 20 and 49.
Christmas is a time when many people feel low and isolated. It is crucial that we, as caring and
responsible members of society are aware, and speak out to cease the stigma of mental health.

One of the joys of hosting the Advent Blog series is the chance to catch up with people, and the blogs submitted make me contemplate the things that are important. Chris Kane exemplified this last year, when he remembered his schoolfriend and rugby playing mate, David, and described the move of London Irish rugby club to its new grounds and how that change was handled with thought and sensitivity - you can read his blog here. Again this year Chris is commenting on change and acknowledging the impact particular friends can have. Chris is an expert in property and the working environment. After many years in corporate life Chris now runs his own consultancy, Chris Kane Associates, which specialises in "getting smart people to smart places" - a much wider remit than just facilities or property. You can follow Chris on Twitter, his handle is @ChrisKane55.


In the hustle and bustle of our 21st-century “always-on” lives most of us have little time to draw breath, to pause for a moment or two, to take time out. Advent 2015 for me is very different, I’m in a new ball game having stepped off the corporate merry-go-round in April.  

Scene from Banksy's Dismaland 2015 (butcher with lasagne)
It is a completely novel experience where every day is different.  

Every day is different
In setting out on this journey I realised that is was driven in part by my recognising that I can see things differently to many in my former profession. Change is never easy and leaving a full-time job to step out into the unknown world of self-employment is not something that most people do on a voluntary basis.  So far it has been very meaningful and productive in ways I couldn’t have foreseen. 
Scene from Frank Capra's 1946 film, "It's a Wonderful Life"
Last year, Kate, reminded me of my Celtic roots by introducing Samhain as part of my Walking With The Spirits post.  This pre Christian tradition is a period of taking stock of the past year, celebrating those spirits that have passed on and for looking forward.  

Celtic calendar showing Samhain preceding Yule
In taking such a big leap into the unknown it is always helpful to have a bit of help and I’m fortunate in having a good support network. This blog is about the help I got from my friend Nigel which I describe as a comet like relationship, something to be celebrated.
Nigel Roberts
When one is navigating a new course it is always helpful to have a guiding light. Sailors will recognise the importance of the Sun and the North Star but over the last 2 years I had my own guiding light that helped me move to my new world. During times of great change the thought of jumping off the fast moving carousel of corporate life can be daunting 

and a helping, yet challenging hand is very useful.  When thinking about a topic for this blog it struck me that comets are buzzing around the universe all the time yet we can only see them at certain times or with special equipment.  For example, Halley’s comet, only appears in our skies every 75 years.

Halley' comet
Most of us, myself included, assume comets streak through the sky and are gone in a flash. A useful metaphor for the transience of life maybe?  The more experienced astrologists amongst us will tell us that comets can be in orbit for up to 200 years and may be visible from earth for up to 18 months to 2 years. We are all agreed, no doubt, that it is fantastic to witness such a marvellous sight whizzing through the skies.

1908 article, from The San Francisco Call, predicting return of Halley's comet in 1910
Opening a new chapter enabled me to forge new relationships and to build stronger links with others. Nigel Roberts was somebody whom I came across when I went back to school in 2013. He was the interviewer from hell during my media skills training course, having learnt that I worked at his alma matter – the BBC. There was something about this spiky Mancunian that I admired and we decided to keep in touch. Over the past 2 years we developed quite a rapport as he guided me along the path of setting up on my own and how best to use the media.  Nigel pointed out the dangers of “spin triumphing over substance” and a host of other little gems. Little did we realise that like seeing a comet charging across the skies our journey together would be short lived.
Hale Bopp as seen in early 1997
In August, I learned of his untimely death and felt a deep loss of a genuine human being who had the rare knack of being insightful, entertaining and sometimes irreverent. For example, he wrote about the toxic office.   Attending his funeral it was not surprising to see a packed house filled with many people who had come to give him a good send-off. I wonder how long the coal dust of his comet tail will linger?  I suspect for quite some time as he had a big impact on a wide range of people from his Leeds University mates to his media colleagues to his family and friends.

Orionid meteor shower (formed from the dust left by Hally's comet)

Leaving your mark as a legacy

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