Skill up

The Summer of 2017 was a most excellent one. I enjoyed family holidays and lots of chill time with my daughter. I asked her at the beginning of the holidays if there was anything special that she would like to do, and she said yes, she would like to go to the circus. I had sort of been aware that I hadn’t sorted anything out, but as the last week of the summer break approached, I remembered a flyer that I had picked up earlier in the year. It was for a circus that was only a half hour drive away. Win!

The name of the circus that we saw was ‘Nicole and Martin’s White Tent’. It involved two performers (Nicole and Martin I presume) and a child that was possibly their son, who came on a couple of times throughout the performance. And it was magical. It was the kind of show that allows adults to see as the eyes of children do, with wonder and amazement. Everything that the performers pretended to see, I could see too, with sharp clarity. And it was beautiful. My daughter laughed so hard that she went bright red and tears streamed down her face. It was a high point of the summer.

After the show, I started to think about the skill sets that I had witnessed that were employed by Nicole and Martin and how truly incredible they were. I saw them play clarinet, trombone, tuba, flute, trumpet, piccolo, violin, double bass and a host of percussion instruments. The both sang beautifully too. This was accompanied by juggling, magic and acting along side the myriad use of a small selection of props. There was also the acrobatics, the displays of balance and strength that were utterly astounding (think you can plank? try that on one hand, whilst balanced on someone else’s head, whilst they walk around.. whole new level!). And if that was not impressive enough, they also perform this whole show in at least four languages. In short, I was awed.

I can’t speak any other languages (am attempting to rectify), I can play maybe two instruments and I have never been able to touch my toes. It is desperately easy to compare myself to others and to come up short. There are so many amazing people in the world with skills that I will never have. I could see this as inspiring and could attempt to learn all these amazing things or I could simply be grateful to have such beauty in my life and appreciate the skills that I do have. I am not less by seeing greatness in others.

Map Point. Have I learnt not to spread myself too thin?

New toy

I have not written for a few days. Some times life get busy, and even important things can take a back seat. My life has not been any busier than normal, but there has been a new advent in my life. I am now the proud owner of a bass guitar.

I started playing guitar when I was seven years old. This might infer more than it really means. I have never had any aspiration to play in a band or perform (although I have on the latter), I play for me. I started learning chords and remember being able to knock out a pretty decent ‘Daddy’s taking us to the zoo tomorrow’ quite quickly. When I was eight, I started to learn to play classical. I had guitar lessons throughout most of my schooling and did some grading exams. And then around fifteen, I stopped wanting to learn anymore. I still played and loved the songs that I already knew, but I no longer had the motivation to extend my knowledge in this area. I would still sit and cuddle my guitar for many hours allowing my fingers the familiarity. But newness was no longer in my repertoire.

I think that the same thing can apply to so many areas of my life. I learn something, feel that I have achieved all I want to, and then move onto the next thing. This is, on one hand, a truly awesome thing. It allows me to harness many different types of skills. But the expression ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ does readily spring to mind. I then thought about this in a wider context. I was talking to someone about the job market and recruitment recently. It was pointed out to me that the ‘job for life’ has long been extinguished and that now we all supposedly must have a ‘career portfolio’. In essence, this means that having one particular skill set is no longer enough, we all should have several. Apparently.

I have always had the most glorious aptitude of being able to do most things that my work has required of me and have worked in enough places that my skill sets are wide. But they are not focussed. I am good at several things, but am not a master of any of them. I think that this is sad in some ways. If we are encouraging everyone to be good at everything, then some level of specialism is lost. But then I read an interview with Elon Musk. He was suggesting (to massively summarise) that people with only a singular specialism lose the wider view, and thus limit the number of ideas available to them for advancing in their field, whatever that may be. So having lots of skills actually enables a massive amount of cross referencing, what works in one area might be transferable to another.

The most major difference between my six string guitar and my bass is that my bass only has four strings. However, those four strings are pretty much the same (albeit somewhat lower) as the bottom four strings on my other guitar. So now I have started playing bass, I am already equipped with a massive amount of transferable knowledge. Currently, I am playing several times a day, until my hand aches and my fingers feel numb, and it is such an incredible thing, so much love for my new bass guitar! Maybe it isn’t that I ever stopped wanting to learn more, I just needed a way to express it.

Map Point. What do I want to learn next?



Mad five minutes

Boredom is a truly dangerous commodity. Yesterday afternoon I had a sudden hankering to cut my hair. I have quite long hair, so googled a couple of things and had a go. I then discovered that I had taken absolutely nothing off the length (intended outcome) and have in fact given myself a slightly above jaw-line length fringe. Which was in truth, muchly surprising. The last time I remember having a fringe was aged around seventeen and I was growing it out.

The transition between my Mum having control over my hair and me was quite big. When I was fifteen, my Mum had my hair ‘layered’. I don’t think that I had any idea what she was talking about, but she seemed excited and I didn’t really have too much interest in what it looked like. The only time that I did was when I had it short and the hairdresser made it uneven.. which caused huge contention, but layering, I was utterly down for. My hair is naturally curly. If I go to sleep with damp hair I wake up with an eighties perm. Post layering, It was much curly. I am not sure I quite realised how curly until the day of my class photo. Mum had given me instructions to remove my hairband and ‘shake it out’ prior to photograph time. I did, with the due diligence of an obedient daughter. Sweet and Holy Moses. On first glance of this photo, my hair is all you see, you would be forgiven for thinking that ‘Cousin IT’ had just landed on my head. My hair was huge. Almost as wide on each side as my face was. I think it was this photo that inspired more of a love for my hair. Growing out all layers and fringe with immediate effect became a priority.

This morning I went to see my most talented friend who made my hair happy again. And now I am going to find a good selection of clips to contend with my five minutes of boredom.

Map Point. How does boredom affect me?


My brain

I suppose that everyone thinks differently. Not as in their ideas, beliefs and whatnot, but in how they actually process information. Until recently I just presumed everyone processed in much the same way, unless a specific issue had been identified. I thought it was quite typical to ponder multiple things at once, but apparently, most people don’t think like this. I had a chat with a friend about this and he seemed to think that it would make my life harder, he almost had a look of pity. The thing was, to only think one thing at a time? I felt that same pity right back. I am very much attached to way that I think, and I guess everyone else is too!

There is a line, from a song in the show Matilda, which I utterly love

‘Have you ever wondered, well I have, about how when I say red, for example, there’s no way of knowing if red, means the same thing in your head, as red means in my head when someone says red?’

Interpretations, even of common, standard things can have such wide variance, that in truth, I just have to take for granted that other people interpret things, at least vaguely the same way as me. Otherwise, that would be far too many variables. In order to communicate, I think this has to be a generalised common acceptance. But at the same time, everyone does have different perspectives.

I have found this most recently with my blog. I know that people have different opinions on almost every subject on earth. But it still feels strange that people who know me can have such wide variances in how they have read my words. I find it completely amazing and sort of exciting too. Pieces that I have written that have been heart-wrenching to write have been perceived as laugh out loud funny. Similarly, things that I have written that have made me giggle, others have read as bleak and depressing. I guess we all use the mirror of our own lives to relate to new ideas. What someone else meant, what someone else understood as absolute, is utterly ready for adaptation in a new person’s mind. I think this is an exceptional thing.

Map Point. Can I ever really know what anyone else is thinking?


Guardians of childhood

Recently I went to the cinema with my mum and daughter. We watched ‘A Streetcat Named Bob’. I read the book a long time ago, and all I really remembered was that a homeless person found a most marvellous cat and it gave him hope to get his life back on track. What I entirely forgot was that it also deals with the subject of heroin addiction and recovery. Post film, this prompted a really interesting conversation with my daughter who wanted to understand why he suddenly became very ill, and I explained the process of withdrawal to her. Afterwards, it occurred to me this was one of the hard conversations that happen during the process of growing up. Explaining to your child that the world is not straightforward and there are harsh things out there feels really bleak. It is also important not to overwhelm and to counter this with all the amazing things too. Of which there are many. And then I thought about the easier ‘hard’ conversations that I have engaged in with my daughter.

Father Christmas. The Easter Bunny. And most specifically, The Tooth Fairy. And whether or not these noble warriors of children’s existences, are actually real. For the most part, I have always taken the philosophical approach with my daughter, if we can talk about something, then it exists at some level. And then if further conversation was necessary, we would talk about if dreams or ideas were real.

This is where the conversation has become interesting for me. There seemed to be a clear separation in my daughter’s mind about reality. She understands that there is a physical manifestation and there is also the non-physical, which is somehow less real but seems to have a good deal of validity. I guess we have always had these sorts of conversations, even when she was smaller. Possibly my favourite ponder of my child was when she was around five. We had just entered the car park where we lived, there were lots of spaces. She said ‘If you go into a car park and there is only space, then that is not a choice. One choice isn’t a choice at all’. Clearly, as an adult, I can see the wider applications of her words, but I often wonder if she did as well.

We have now had the logistical chat about the existence of ideas, and other than Father Christmas (who is based on an actual person, which makes him somewhat more contentious than the other characters) we are all good. I generally think that when a child asks a question, they are ready for an answer. Maybe not the most complex one, but one that is without fabrication and definitely holds some element of truth.

Map Point. What questions do I still want to ask?


Love what you do

I had the most wonderful privilege of going on a supremely relaxing holiday with my Mum and daughter. There was glorious food, incredible surroundings and impeccable service. But this is not my focus, it was the contrast of coming home and visiting the supermarket that struck a chord.

I had completed my post holiday essentials shop in my local supermarket, cereal, milk, chocolate spread and some apples (these are key items in my existence) and went to the self-scan machine. I always inwardly berate myself whenever I use these machines, as more often than not there is a problem. My items don’t scan, discounts don’t come off, the weight of the items is deeply problematic, and sweet Moses you need to get your produce into the bag fast before the machine questions your commitment to bagging said item. However today I had a new problem, I had remembered to bring my reusable shopping bags and they were too heavy. The machine advised that my heavy bags necessitated the assistance of a member of staff. I called over said man of green, to which he barked at me that I could ‘Just click the ‘add bag’ button’ before he stalked off to contend with a product weight issue (I assume, based on the most likely contender). My lasting feelings about this encounter was this man really did not like his job.

Having just experienced the glorious highs epic customer service compared to this equally epic low several thoughts occurred to me.

  1. If you don’t enjoy something, find something else.
  2. The people in my local farm shop are always chirpy.
  3. The self-scanning machines are taking jobs. And customer sanity.
  4. Maybe supermarkets breed unhappy people.
  5. Maintaining happiness and motivation must be really hard for big organisations.
  6. People who represent a company are in the precarious position of being human.
  7. If people’s only motivation to work is money, can that ever be enough?

When I have been in jobs that I haven’t enjoyed, I have rarely stayed long. A job that doesn’t sustain you in some way is not something that should be a long term commitment. My most favourite jobs (other than what I do now) were highly physical jobs. They came with the perk of diabolical pay, but I came home covered in mud and physically tired and that felt good. And working in an office, looking after a filing system. This was good money for a job where my primary focus was to track down missing files. I have never particularly linked how much I am paid for a job to my happiness. If I enjoy something, then to a large degree, the money feels immaterial. This is likely because for a long time I wasn’t happy, so if something provides happy, it is precisely where I want to be!

And then there’s the subject of worth. Maybe my lack of connection to finances is down to ascribing a monetary value to my time, to me. It feels uncomfortable at some level having to decide my worth. That I have worth. But it is curiously empowering when I do. Recently for a job that I have been doing for around three years, the company suddenly decided that they only wanted to pay half of what I had been charging. I said no. I didn’t get excited or cry (shock or anger generally provokes tears.. then people think I am sad, and feel sorry for me. I am not sad, I am a ball of magmas rage, in liquid format!), I simply explained my worth. If someone wants my time, wants the skills and experience that I have, then that comes at a price. Knowing what I will and won’t accept in employment feels like a huge thing for my self-esteem. I have inherent worth and getting paid well to do something I love is a muchly beautiful thing.

Map Point. What is my inherent worth?


The things we want to do

Someone recounted a time to me yesterday that I dispensed some particularly good advice, but she couldn’t remember the wording. Neither, sadly, could I. So I thought that writing about the motivation behind my forgotten words might trigger something.

My friend is going through a time of fear relating to a specific environment. She remembered that I once explained why I take my daughter on so many different types of days out. On the low key end, we visit castles, theatre, museums, galleries and all the usual malarkey (not often to the cinema as for the most part, she really isn’t a fan! Argh!!). But on the higher key end, we walk around aquarium tanks, go on fast rides and zip wire through the trees. I am not sharing this saying ‘woo hoo, what a good parent I am’, but to explain the beginning of the rationale behind it.

I became a single parent when my daughter was three. I didn’t have any particular aspiration to jump back into a relationship, and I read a lot of the possible effects of not having a male role model predominantly in a child’s life. The first area I read about was to do with vocabulary. Apparently, children get most of their new words from their dad’s. I can see how historically this could be true. Men were out in the wider world, with industry specific language, which would then filter into the home. However, I don’t know how applicable this would be today. And this is not something that I would be concerned about as an issue in my home. I have a sizable vocabulary, my daughter reads widely and we see lots of people. New words are always abundant! The second area that I read about concerned me more. It was to do with risk.

I was a child who wouldn’t go on piers, didn’t like heights and generally wigged out about a lot of things. I wasn’t entirely without risk, I rode horses and loved fairgrounds, but I sensed that this would not be enough. I did take my daughter to horse riding lessons when she was around six. This came to an abrupt halt when one fateful day my brother’s girlfriend was asking her about her lessons, and saying that she used to ride too. She also said that it sometimes hurt her bottom. My child agreed, adding that it also hurt her bits too (Cue a room of adults looking at each other slightly awkwardly and somewhat amused). After a brief chat with her, it transpired that she no longer wanted to do horse riding! But then I was left in a situation where there was very little risk in her life. We got a scooter, and she also developed a propensity for climbing trees. The climbing has continued.

The climbing has continued. On one camping holiday, she easily made it thirty foot up a tree. I will confess to no small amount of panic. But I knew that this was my issue to get over, not her issue to absorb. So I braved it. There was tree top challenge adventure locally to us, so will a trepidatious heart, I booked us in.

Sweet Moses. This thing was skyscraper high! I clung to every tree for dear life, all muscles tensed and the sweat dripped. In reality, its highest point was around twelve meters. When I had finished this first foray, I was exhausted, I ached, but there was also a slight exhilaration. I had done something which I had not previously deemed myself capable. And that had a knock on effect.

Most primarily the effect was lots more tree tops challenges. I learnt to trust the wires that held me, and that gave me the confidence to jump, swing and climb even higher. So much fun! The strangest thing was that from my second experience of it, it no longer exhausted me. It was then that I realised how crippling fear can be, and how much energy it uses. We now go on much higher zip wires, and although I sometimes have a bit of a wobble with the height, I know that I have trust, and the moment passes. And this is what I want to impart to my daughter. Some things are a little bit scary, but trusting the equipment and people around you (and also yourself) can make the difference between finding the grit and determination to do something compared to sitting on the side, feeling a sense of disappointment. I guess this is not a battle that I win all of the time, finding that perseverance to keep going when things get hard takes a lot of energy. And some days I just don’t have it. But I am learning to find more.

I hope that my daughter can see the strength that she inspires in me, and hopefully me in her as well.

Map Point. Where in my life do I want to take more risk?




Where do I go from here?

I have just had a particularly lovely holiday away in Norfolk. One of the best things that I saw was a sign for ‘Thetford Ranges’ I don’t know what these are, but someone had helpfully graffitied an ‘O’ before the word ‘ranges’ that made me smile a good deal. Near to where I live is a road called ‘Poor Hole Lane’. The ‘r’ is coloured over on a regular basis, and whenever I see it, I feel sort of proud that someone, somewhere, has felt motivated to continue the funny. I have never done this. neither have I stolen a cabbage from the local fields (the other apparent rite of local passage), but it made me think about how I perceive different places and the effect that it has.

Whenever I go back to the place where I grew up, I feel as if I am treading on my memories. Although some things look the same, nothing feels that way. I feel a sense of guilt, that maybe I shouldn’t be there, but at the same time, a sense of wonder, that this magical place of growing up still exists. My brother, barring a few years out, has lived in the same area all of his life. I struggle to imagine what that must be like.

The sense of connection to somewhere that you lived feels enormous. Part of me will forever reside in these different places, and visiting them will always feel a bit like going back to that stage of my life. Maybe that is what feels unnerving, that by seeing myself in these older locations, I become so massively aware of the changes that I have gone through, and it doesn’t sit right with the person that I am now. Then I go on to think about people who have lived in hundreds of places, do they have that same sense of connection? Or does their journey never have a chance to bond with a physical location?

It felt strange coming home after being away. My house felt different. As did my road, my car and the sunshine seemed to shine differently than when I was away. It struck me how fragile the connection to a place can be.

Map Point. Where in the world do I feel most connected to?



I keep seeing a scene from a dream I had a few months back. At the time it struck me as profound, and now in idle moments, it reappears. I dreamt I was somewhere in the area that I first went to university, built up, busy skyline. There were big coaches in a car park with lots of people board, and above were hundreds of lines of prayer flags, the sky was coloured with them.

Apparently, dreams are the way that brains process reality, or something like that. I understand where all the elements of the dream came from, but I find it truly incredible that my sleeping mind can create such incredible narratives. Whole stories with scenes, plotlines and characters. Dreaming is an amazing thing, like lots of other things. We accept something as normal because we are used to it without ever fully appreciating.

It’s like when I am ill, I aspire to good health, but when I am healthy, I don’t feel an active gratitude for this, I accept this as normal. And likely that should be normal for me, but in absence, we find worth to the previously overlooked. Simply acknowledging the most marvellousness of my body is something that I am trying to give more credence to.

My waking dreams, my hopes and aspirations are also something that I take for granted. I know what I want to achieve, but sometimes wanting something and taking it a stage further to actually getting it can be difficult. It’s almost as if I have a beautiful book of everything I want, and am sometimes I am content enough just to look at the pictures.

I try to think more about all the things that I am grateful for, but that is not enough. I need to act on the things that inspire me. I appreciate the low key areas of my life, but now it is time to make my picture book my reality.

Map Point. Which dreams do I never expect to achieve?



Best of times, worst of times

This is my hundredth post. I have been a little sketchy over the last couple of weeks but am now feeling in a place of creation. This feels most me.

My daughter left her junior school and is due to start secondary in September. It was strange walking into the junior school, knowing it would be the last time that I would see my daughter emerge from her classroom. It would also be the last time I would see the familiar faces of people that I have come to regard as friends, all the amazing parents that I have passed the time in idle chatter with whilst waiting for our children to find their ways out of the building. It won’t be my last time in the school, as I run a science club there, but all my volunteer commitments are over now. No more school discos to run, flowers to order, cash and carry’s to visit or any of the other things that have kept me occupied during the past few years. On my final week there I was given some flowers which felt heart fuzzy.

I have stopped and started other sorts of work, resolved some headspace bits, made several piles of things to leave the house (they are in phase one, thus in no actual danger of leaving the house currently, but the process has begun!) and am about to embark on my post grad studies. Everything is changing. Tomorrow I am planning on playing ‘Musical House’ (as opposed to chairs), and am looking forward to seeing where all the furniture will end up! It is a time of transition.

This has also been a period of anxiety for me. My sleep has been gloriously unaffected but it has been a phase of apathy. When I get really anxious, sometimes I find it easier to close down a little, not to engage so much. Seeing people is hard when I feel like this. It isn’t that I doubt the love my friends have for me and I know they would support me, but I also know it’s only me that can truly lift me up. Other people can provide a temporary distraction, but only I can make this permanent. Tonight, after a very slow afternoon, I had a sudden boon of energy. I feel energised, new and smiley all over again. I try not to wear anxious for too long.

In so many classic stories, the duality of best and worst are often expressed. This is likely something we all experience at different points. As the extremes of my life present themselves in tandem, it makes me realise how truly blessed I am for the highs that empower me and the lows that give me guidance for reflection.

Thank you to everyone who has supported and encouraged, commented and critiqued, liked, shared and said the most beautiful things about my writing. Next milestone, two hundred! Much love and shiny.xx

Map Point. What am I completely proud of?