Tuesday, 3 January 2017

For when your heart feels hollow

Day 35 (Wednesday 4th January 2017)

35 - the age at which Ronnie Corbett met Ronnie Barker, he was 36
(they first became acquainted when they were asked to work together
on the Frost Report). It was after they successfully ad-lib-ed for
nearly 10 minutes, during a technical breakdown, when they were
presenting at the BAFTAs in 1970, where the BBC1 controller
was present, that they were given the opportunity to host
The Two Ronnies. Ronnie Corbett was a bee keeper - another
role in which timing is important. He died 31 March 2016.
Today is my Silver wedding anniversary. It was 25 years ago that I walked down the aisle of Temple Round Church on my father's arm and I commenced married life. I now have 2 wonderful sons, and their father and I will be celebrating with them tonight.

Today's post is by Rachel Burnham the much respected Learning and Development (L&D) specialist, based in Manchester. Did you know that she is a public policy advisor for the CIPD? However, her "day job" is providing learning support and individual development through her business, Burnham L&D. Rachel genuinely cares about the people she works with and enjoys seeing them thrive and grow as well as providing advice and support to L&D professionals to help them become even better at their roles. She really values her own personal learning network too. She writes an excellent L&D focused blog - L & D Matters and is active on social media (you can follow her on Twitter via @BurnhamLandD). 

Outside work she enjoys spending time with her family and is a keen jazz fan, as well as having a passion for gardening. I don't need to tell you much about Rachel, as the marvellous list she has produced within her post will inform you far better than I evert could. She is a wonderful and inspirational woman.


For when your heart feels hollow

When Kate announced that the theme for this year’s Advent Blog series was ‘Heights, hearts and hollows’, it seemed as though those three words summed up my year. 

The first 6 months of 2016 were full of heights.  Then in mid-summer a close friendship went wrong and despite my best efforts I haven’t been able to put things right.  So, the second half of the year has left me with a hollow heart.  

As I have written before, many years ago my son was born prematurely at 28 weeks.  He weighed 1lb 13oz and spent the first three months of his life in hospital – firstly in intensive care and then in special baby care.  We visited him twice a day in the hospital.  We were so excited to finally bring him home. 

Then began the most challenging time of my life – and the most socially isolating.  Because of the weakness in his lungs, we were advised not to mix with anyone who had any contact with other children.  Just about everyone we knew had children or worked with children and young people – I had a background in youth work and we both volunteered as children’s workers.  We couldn’t take him out for more than an hour.  I had had him so early that I hadn’t even started baby classes.  This was of course pre-internet, pre-social media, pre-Twitter.  I felt so at sea.  So lost.

Arthur Rackham illustration of Danae and her son Perseus
Apart from the loving support of immediate family, one thing really helped me through this time.  From a most surprising source.  I read an article by Julie Burchill (I think) which suggested looking for small things to enjoy every day – it must have been an early piece on positive psychology.  So that is what I started to do. 

It was the middle of winter.  In north London. I couldn’t go on the tube.  We had no money for cafes (don’t get me started on maternity pay and premature births!).  So, I used to go out everyday for a walk with our new baby in the pram – the maximum hour permitted – and I would look out for small things to enjoy.

This is when I really started to appreciate other people’s front gardens.  A winter shrub here, a glimpse of an early snowdrop there, hoar frost on the grass and fallen leaves, a scrap of winter blue sky and just how wonderful tree bark can be!

So for 2017 I will be back to appreciating small things every day.  Here are some of the things I will be looking forward to:

·      Homemade soups – filling the house with warm smells, probably including dumplings.

·      The scent of lemon – I may be making lemon curd.

·      Splashing in puddles – you may need to tap into your inner 8 year old for some of these – I find my inner 8 year old is never far from the surface!  This is a good all year round standby activity – particularly if you live in Manchester.

·      Lighting candles.

El Greco - A Boy Blowing on an Ember to Light a Candle 
·      Growing and picking sweet peas – for the strongest plants you can get sowing these indoors anytime from now on until March.  Apart from the scent, one of the best things about sweet peas is that the more you pick, the more you get.

·      Chatting with neighbours – particularly the ones I don’t yet know so well.

·      Decorating eggs at Easter.  Trundling them down a hill.

·      Thanking someone.

·      Watching waves crash on a beach – my favourite beach is the appropriately named ‘Farr Beach’ as it is right on the north coast of Scotland near Bettyhill – it is also right by a bee sanctuary, which is a great place on a sunny day for spotting all the many different kinds of bees.  Which leads me on to…

·      Growing more bee-friendly plants – I have just widened the borders in my garden to make room for more plants – I’m in the process of getting rid of my lawn entirely – so now I can plant more plants to attract bees.

·      Learning a language – try Duolingo – I’m having fun learning Greek – I’m finding it immensely challenging and enjoying it all the more for that.

·      Taking breaks in my working day to dance enthusiastically – my current favourite track for this is ‘Afro-Blue’ by Cecilia Stalin.  This is also good for your back as well as your spirits.

·      Making home-made birthday cards – some drawing may be involved.

·      Getting in touch again with someone I used to know.

· Going to hear live music – already looking forward to the Manchester Jazz Festival 28th July to 6th August.

·      Reading a great book and passing it on to a friend.

Getting pollen on my nose, from getting too close to a lily when sniffing its scent.

·      Keeping in contact with an older relative or family friend who is on their own.

·      Trying out new paints or pencils and enjoying making a mess.

·      Having a picnic, possibly in the rain, though this is only likely, not compulsory.

·      Learning all the words to a song with a challenging lyric – I think this may be my year for mastering ‘The Waters of March’ – though not in the original Brazilian.

·      Picking blackberries.  And eating them!

·      Speaking up for a cause I believe in.

·      Stomping on crisp autumn leaves.

·    Enjoying the sound of rain falling, when you are warm and cosy inside.

·      Cooking something new & different.

·      Walking in woods frequently.

·      And not forgetting enjoying beautiful tree bark.

 The winter my son was born had a happy ending.  One late February afternoon, as the light faded outside, I sat holding him after a feed.  I held him close, felt his warmth and nuzzled his clean baby hair and felt that all was right with the world.   And now, of course, he is 21 and happy, healthy and taller than me.
Where our stories for 2017 will go, we don’t know.  We can’t control all the big stuff that may or may not happen.  We can enjoy the many small moments along the way.

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