Tick tick tick

Waiting, waiting. I am leaving work in two months. Was meant to be last tuesday but I agreed to stay on – to help, to do some things which I am best placed to do. Half thought there might be some financial benefit but I don’t think that is the case now. So now I am watching the clock tick down – knowing I won’t get done what I need to. Being delayed by the same infernal internal politics that had me running for the door in the first place.

And I am also waiting for a date for surgery. Which will probably come around the same time as I leave. So I know I will need some recouperation time. Which means I can’t really plan anything. Which is frustrating.

Meanwhile I try and think about what I want to do. With this time I have, with the few months I can give myself before I have to be earning more money. And what do I want to do to earn that money in the long run?

I had been working towards doing a PG Dip in Counselling next year. I’m on the PG Cert at the moment. But it will be an expensive and time consuming process if I do it. Maybe I need to think more thoroughly and be sure if that is the right avenue. I am interested in the theory. I am interested in people. I want to help, and I think I have an aptitude – but, but. How does it impact me? How will I respond to real life problems? When they transcend the difficulties that I have helped friends through in everyday life.

I’m thinking a little counselling of my own, and maybe some volunteering in some way might help me see whether I am as suited as I think I am. And if I can overcome other challenges which may be in my way.

Should I then focus on some of the things I haven’t had, and won’t have the chance to do othewise. For a little while. Writing, painting, making things.

Follow a path, see where it leads.

Don’t let the door 

What a shitty year. On so very many levels. Funnily enough,  despite the horrendous end to 2015, the floods which devastated our Valley – from which people are still recovering – the response actually meant I started the year hopeful. 

And I find myself at the end in a position which at any other year in the previous 15 would have been joyous. But by God has the stuffing been knocked out of me in between. Enough to squeeze out the confidence and replace it with anxiety. 

But I will find a way to get back my oomph. Deal with this new world. 

Family

This has been a hard week in so many ways. We have come to the latest milestone in an excrutiating restructuring programme which is eviscerating my team. Already we know who is leaving. Today is the deadline for those applying to stay. A horrible process which – while it was never going to be easy – has certainly not been designed to minimise stress for the participants. It’s been hard work even to do my contributions, when I know I am leaving. The torment for those wanting to stay is just horrible.

I worry for the future. Theirs, mine, the service we have struggled so hard to keep going and do well. But at least we have one. The hardest thing this week has been losing one of our own. We heard on monday that a colleague had passed away the previous week. This was sudden, despite her having been ill for a week or two. We didn’t have any idea it was anything serious. Indeed neither did she. She thought it was stress related, as did the doctor she saw. Because the last few months have been awful, it’s not unlikely that many of us might have been fraying at the seams. But apparently there was something else underneath. We don’t know what yet.

I feel bereft. My team is my little family. I feel motherly towards them all. I do everything I can to try and help them. Worry desperately about trying to ensure everyone rubs along well together, try to help people understand eachother. I am hugely proud of what we acheive together despite little being in our favour most of the time. I try to encourage staff to make the best of themselves, believe in their capabilities and gently encourage them to reach for whatever goal will bring them happiness.  Sheila was relatively new to the team. She’d been with us a couple of years. She came to us having had a rough time in her previous job, and I wanted to make sure we made her feel welcome. It really wasn’t hard. She was so helpful and willing and eager to learn. She had to learn a whole new range of tasks and applications and processes – because information work is quite different from generic administration work, and more complex than people think it is. But she never moaned. She was keen and interested and gave great service to our customers.

Someone shared with us that she had told them she felt really valued and happy and at home in our team. That gives me comfort. We did our job well.

I am angry that there are managers out there who don’t think like that. Who see their staff as sponges who can absorb more and more and more work, or be wrung out until there is nothing left. Who are unsympathetic if people are sick, or need adjustments to help them be able to deliver the best work they can. We spend so much time together, why make it unpleasant? People who think only of themselves. How can I use this individual to in some way improve my own chances. What competition are they to me? What can I do to sabotage them. I hate that in people. People who see work as an excuse to behave in a manner they never would with friends or family.  Seeing “professionalism” as somehow hard and cold and ruthless. These are the kind of people that make work hell, make people ill, and paradoxically, often make their staff less productive, efficient, cost effective etc. And yet they are the ones who end up at the top of the tree because they don’t care who they step on to get there. Don’t mind making the “difficult decisions” that mean people lose their jobs or are pressured into illness. They don’t say no, or offer other ways of doing things, because they only care about pleasing the boss. Regardless if the boss is wrong. Which they sometimes are. And need telling, respectfully, why what they suggest is a really bad idea.

But that’s a tangent. I was talking about family. There are lots of different types of family. The actual relative ones. The blood ones you don’t get to choose. The adoptive ones you dont get to choose but who chose you. The friend ones you probably get on with most. And the work ones. Who if you are lucky are also friend ones. You might not know them as well as some of the others – but whose fault is that? Anyway. They are precious. Look after them. Mine is hurting and I wish I could make it stop.

National Poetry Day : Drury Lane

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My walk to work yesterday (captured for National Poetry Day)

From high above the city
(woke before dawn in darkness
Listening to the fading quiet –
A thin sliver of the night
heralded by wandering revellers
wending their way home
in dwindling numbers.

Rounded by the returning rumble
early traffic
bins and the yawning of the crane
Sweeping smooth like a Hopkins skate
across a gaping hole-

Hidden from pedestrian eyes,
We see it though,
who live as the crow flies.)

Descent and into the flow,
downstream,
down towards the stream
down Drury Lane past
the temple of the Great Architect –
not left to where William and Mary
tended the rose,
issued coins to aid the progress of the Rake.

No – to the Arc of the Aldwych,
with its chunky red necklace of buses,
sleek and new, sci-fi smooth,
going nowhere faster than you.

Thoughts trickle in here
What would it be like to do this every day?
Stop for coffee and watch the fray, the freyed and fraid.
Black beetle cabs scuttle and shine,
unburden themselves of their oblivious load –

Kerb to foyer past doorman and shining brass plaques.
Eyes high, coat over arm, briefcase, phone.
Places to go, people to see,

Except him. The man on the pavement
to the left of the $door.
The one they ignore
In their haste and importance.

The one who has seen
who has been
so much more
than they, than they know
but suffers now so
Gets no buttons and bows
no help this hero.

Left from the strand and on to the
wide open bridge.
Wide and wild, the wind over water
hair whipping the breeze
watching the churn and the eddies below
brown river of stories.
If I jumped here I see the strong arms
that would pull me down
my lungs would silt,
fill with mud, cool my blood
and still my restless dreams.

Where would we settle, come to land?
Be picked clean by cockney seagulls
or carried off past the barriers to sea.
Whitstable oysters come feed on me.

And now I meet my waterloo and hold.
Back into the belly of the beast.
A day begun, my captor resumes his feast.

Habit forming

True to form a couple of weeks of relative good behaviour, going to the gym, walking etc – is followed by illness which lays me low. Coincidence perhaps but I must, as soon as I can walk more than three steps without feinting or coughing my guts up, must seize the day, bull by the horns, grasp the nettle, clamber back upon the horse (exercise bike). I need to build these habits to the point where it feels wrong not to go.

I was enjoying it. I generally do. It is more time and mood and energy that gets in the way – the latter two of course benefit when I find the first, but work and commuting and public transport collude to make it hard.

But I will try again.

If… If, I take the plunge and find myself at greater liberty next year, I must make myself build a walk in every day. For fitness, but also the inspiration it brings. The thinking space, that is so hard to find. In the house, I am plagued by should do this and should do that, or worse should have done this or that, a million miles and hours away from when it would have done me any good. For peace of mind I try to chase the thoughts away, mindfully meditate, breathe deeply and calmly. But sometimes you need to think. But have the thoughts be useful, helpful, inspirational. And walking does that, eventually. The first half hour or so you chase away the nagging doubts, and with sweat comes clarity – first the fresh air and beauty around you, a quiet respite, then something stirs and lightbulbs light.

And I want to get fit. If I end up back in some 9-5 sat on my bum scenario, I want the load to be lighter. Who knows what life is like without debt or weight? Both so heavy round your neck, they bend you down until you cannot see the way ahead.

I don’t want to be a willow the wisp. Just not quite so gravid, quicker on my feet. Able to jump down from a wall without fear.

If. If. Of course I might not be let go. And so Plan B must also form. Which will recquire much greater discipline.

Apron strings

Is it it because I am an only child, I wonder, that I find myself worrying so much, at nearly forty years of age, about what my parents will think if I do what I really want to do? (My lord, that was a sentence of some complexity)

It is a source of endless anxiety. Their opinion of me. My perception of their disappointment. Not in all things, but in many. And the things they are not disappointed about are possibly the things of which I would like to divest myself.

But it is, after all, my life. How will I feel if by some miracle I make it to the ever receding pension age, having stayed at my current employer all my life, never truly enjoying it. Indeed, much of the time actively detesting and being damaged by it, in terms of my mental wellbeing. And then, what guarantee of any health or life left over to enjoy this glorious pension, which is not the golden apple so many seem to think even now – before a another thirty years of political erosion. If they are still here then, they will be 95.

Should one expect long life and luxury in retirement? Put off all enjoyment until then? It is a hell of a gamble, and one which I would not give myself good odds on. Not that one should not prepare for it. In case it happens. But how would you live your life if you assumed you wouldn’t live much past 60 or 70? That there would be no long stretch of health to reap the rewards of a life of toil.

I would like some different experiences. Working experiences, and leisure experiences. I want to keep learning. I want to do what I love. I want to create, to teach, to make a difference, to help, in a more direct way than I do now.

I am suffering from imposter syndrome. I still do, even in my long established role, in which I never get anything but good feedback.

It doesn’t seem to matter what plaudits or awards, commendations or approval I receive. It doesn’t sink in.

Perhaps because like any little Freudian I am always seeking the approval of my father and mother. And something always feels not quite right. It’s not that they don’t approve of my job. Clearly, the angst I am feeling regarding the prospect of doing something Different is based on their belief that it is “a good thing”. But I can’t really explain why it doesn’t feel right. They think It is a good thing because of the pay. The pension. The flexibility. The illusion of stability. And none of these things are bad. But somehow they don’t see the job itself. It is a good job. I remember commenting when one of my predecessor was being patronised by her husband- doesn’t he realise that’s a really good role in our profession? And Nationally, internationally even, not just within our organisation. So I have to acknowledge that myself. And it is not reall the professional aspects of the job I have trouble with. Except the ways in which I know it could be so much better in a different type of organisation.

It’s like those memes, “what people think I do, what my parents think I do, what I actually do” – I am not sure what they really think my day involves. But somehow here is surprise that I have staff, that I make the decisions about who to hire, that I travel to London a lot, that I’ve met some of he people they see on the news. I don’t know what job would be impressive to them. Or if they care at all about what I do, other than the pay it brings.

The things I want more of don’t cost money really. Well, some of them do. But not the really fudamental things. Maybe it’s just for a while. Time, space, air, fitness, community, creativity

I want to do something I’m good at, that makes a difference. that makes me happy . Several things. That I don’t have time to do properly now. But suddenly the thought of leaving the little pool scares me. I doubt my ability, think I’m a fraud, not real, somehow I don’t have the experience or training or something. I’m cosseted and delusional.

Maybe I am. Maybe I’m the person on the X factor whose mum really thinks they have a lovely voice.

Hope Floats

 

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So if you are in England and watch the news you will probably have noticed that things got a little wet. Over much of the North, Scotland – homes & businesses destroyed, bridges washed away, roads collapsing.

The Calder Valley has been hit hard. Again. Somewhere I wrote (I think on my old blog) about the events of 2012 – when we were hit twice in the space of a month, once from rising river levels, and then from a freak flash storm onto the already saturated moors turning roads into waterfalls and overwhelming the rivers and drains again. People went through hell, but they also banded together and worked hard and most got back on their feet. There were a few casualties among the businesses of the valley which never opened up again, or which didn’t last long – the difficulty of getting insurance or cost of claiming – along with a less than stellar economic climate, makes it really hard. But even in the past six months new enterprises have sprung up from the ashes of old (Moyles hotel /bar/restaurant had stood empty until the new Moyles B&B was opened in one third of it)

But then it happened again. Boxing Day – I was in Leeds myself and watched the horrible events online as the waters rose and my firends were once again innundated. I live in Hebden Bridge, so most of what I see is related to there – but the damage is widespread, Mytholmroyd, Eastwood, Todmorden, Elland, Brighouse, Copley – more. The waters rose higher this time, over 6ft in some places (above floor level, which in itself is much higher than the usual river level). People had in many cases tried to put their belongings / stock high up to save them, high enough that they would have escaped in 2012, but not this time.

As the waters dropped and people surveyed the devastation – mud and sludge and silt covering everything, the valley began to do what it does best.

If you’ve never been here, Calderdale is beautiful. Absolutely stunning.

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Stoodley Pike looks down over the bost alluring mix of gentle rolling hills and rugged craggs, man made echoes of industry somehow complementing the wild moors and steep wooded sides. It is beautiful. And a wonderful place to live. I was almost going to say despite the floods. But I also want to say because of the floods. Because the floods show you what is most beautiful, which is not always easy to see. And that is the people. The wonderful people – many of whom do great things in drier times too, as we are a creative, generous place – but so many more who when the need arises, ask no questions except – How can I help?  Thousands of people who flock to volunteer to muck out, to clean, to feed, to clothe, who donate cleaning equipment, clothes, toys, furniture, electrical goods, their time, money, services. Everyone thinking desperately “what can I do?”. People trying to turn their skills so that they can support the effort to put the valley right again.

It is going to be hard. So many people have no insurance, or cannot claim – ridiculous excesses / expense imposed on people who have nothing by companies which make obscene profit every year. Businesses which would often find these coming, post christmas months difficult at the best of times. People who were on zero hours contracts, whose workplaces are out of action for who knows how long. And still the rains fall.

But – with the help of the people of the valley – and the even more amazing people who are travelling from all over the country to help, to bring free food, to restore our faith in humanity and show the meaning of compassion and love (more on which another day) – there will be recovery.

A number of appeals have been put together to raise money – a main one which will help individual residents and be matched by the government – and then lots of crowdfunders for the many businesses which are affected. Celebrities and authors have donated items for auction to support some particular causes, and there are some great ideas like a raffle to win a wedding package with all the different things you might need.

If you are able, please do contribute – if you want to offer more practical support or buy something to support the clean up / refurbishment effort then please check the posts on Calder Valley Flood Support facebook pages to make sure you get what is currently needed, as the situation changes day by day.

Calder Valley Flood Support on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/cvcsg/?fref=nf

Amazon wishlist of items needed – buy from here and it will be delivered direct to the hubs
https://www.amazon.co.uk/registry/wishlist/16057BFO4YNG1/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_it_wl_o_xIOGwb0E8EH8B

Calderdale Flood Relief Appeal:
https://localgiving.com/appeal/flooding

Calderdale’s Big Fat Wedding Raffle: (can you donate a prize? Or watch this space for details of how to buy tickets)
https://www.facebook.com/groups/806485476141124/

Support for individual businesses / organisations / schools etc.

Ebay auctions to support Sowerby Bridge Cricket Club:
http://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/sowerbycricketfloodappeal/m.html?_nkw=&_armrs=1&_ipg=&_from=

Ebay auctions to support the Book Case, Hebden Bridge
http://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/bookcasehebdenfloodauction/m.html?_nkw&_armrs=1&_ipg&_from

Contributions of Vinyl wanted for record fair to support Muse Music / Love Cafe: Donations to The Trades Club, Hebden Bridge, email: lizktradesclub@gmail.com

Contributions of Art to be auctioned for the flood appeal – or a venue for this auction, contact Caroline Reed on Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/caroline.reed.507?fref=nf

Crowdfunding to save 2Tone Comics:
https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/2tonecomics

Crowdfunding to save Ribbon Circus Habberdashery:
https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/ribbon-circus

Crowdfunding for Dark Angel Clothing:
https://www.gofundme.com/5pe9ak

Crowdfunding to replace toys for Riverside Fun Club:
https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/r-bracken-1

Crowdfunding to save Hiu Man Chinese Takeaway and help them contribute to providing food for volunteers:
https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/hiu-man

Crowdfunding to rebuild Monster Computers:
https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/sarah-vardy

Crowdfunding for Mytholmroyd Community Centre:
https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/karen-harker

Crowdfunding for Molly and Ginger (clothes shop)
https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/mollyandginger

Finally – it obviously wasn’t just my home town affected, here are some other appeals for other affected areas – I know there’s only so much money to go around but as they say – every little helps.

https://mydonate.bt.com/events/lancsfloodappeal

https://campaign.justgiving.com/charity/forevermanchester/GMFloodRecoveryAppeal/

http://campaign.justgiving.com/charity/cumbriafoundation/cumbriafloodappeal2015

(Please let me know if you know of any more and I will add them / share widely)