My third full week, following on from Week 2 still being but with some doing sneaking in towards the end.
An excellent week that featured a couple of films, lunches with a couple of different people, a trip to Raystede, a late night at the Booth Museum event, a trip to the CASS Sculpture Foundation (a great way to spend an afternoon), and hot chocolate and murmuration watching on the beach. As well as a coaching session, a lot of reading and quite a bit of reflecting. A perfect mix of time alone and time with people I like to spend time with.
There were a couple of events during the week that stood out.
This week started off with Mum’s birthday. And always the strange question about do you celebrate, or how do you mark the anniversary of the birth of someone who has died? Or even how to refer to it, what tense to use?
“It is the anniversary of her birth” works
“It would have been her 83rd birthday” also works
“It would have been her birthday” or “It is her birthday”? - I think I used these interchangeably during the day.
Mum’s birthday was always celebrated growing up. Dad’s not so much. But Mum’s was always a significant event and was a family affair. So it feels wrong not to do something. The first year after she’d died I cooked spaghetti bolognese, and Richard and I watched a Pink Panther film (one of her favourites). Last year we drove to Hull and remembered her by putting some flowers in the garden where I sprinkled her ashes. This year I decided that we’d go out for an Italian meal as it’s a cuisine that is associated with plenty of memories of Mum.
It feels right to remember her in a way that is fitting and suits her and to celebrate her day. And I was very touched to get a phone call from My Aunt (my Dad’s brother’s wife) who had been thinking of Mum and me all day and thought she’d call to tell me so - that made my day.
I hadn’t planned to write any of that, but it’s there now so it might as well stay!
I went to a Meaning fringe event on Wednesday evening about How To Build a Community That People Love. It was a mistake. Not because there was anything wrong with the event, but because I’m not ready to be networking yet. I’m in downtime mode and want to remain there. I don’t have answers to the “So, what do you do?” question. I haven’t clarified the answer in the immediate term myself, so I’m not ready to answer it for anyone else. Come January when my downtime is over, then I’ll be in a position to re-start this but not now. It may have had a part in changing the end of the week into being more doing focused than being focused which feels a bit sad.
My second week of Deliberate DownTime feels like it has been much more reflective and less doing. Which is exactly what I was hoping for during this time off. To quote this article
Tell me you remember you are still a human being, not just a human doing. Tell me you’re more than just a machine, checking off items from your to-do list
I want to spend some of this time feeling, being, reflecting and learning about myself. This week was heading in that direction.
I know very little about Greek Mythology.
On Monday I went to Brighton Dome to hear Stephen Fry talk about his new book Mythos. We used to have audiobooks of him reading the Harry Potter books, and they were gorgeous. Hearing him speak from a stage is no less enjoyable. He introduced us to characters, and to the stories, and I realised just how little was familiar to me. As part of the ticket price we got a copy of the book, so hopefully that’ll enrich my understanding and fill in some of those blanks.
Toys behind glass feel weird
I went to the Brighton Toy and Model Museum during the week. I’d never been before and yet have walked past it hundreds, if not thousands, of times. I have no particular interest in model trains or cars, so that aspect was a bit lost on me. I was impressed with the scale of the holdings, but couldn’t rustle up any fascination for the specificity of the models. I did, however, have emotional reactions to two displays.
One was the case full of dolls. I found them uncomfortable. I think it’s mainly about the eyes. Those fixed eyes were staring at me. Shudder!
The second was the cabinet of cuddly toys. Some of the cuddly critters are threadbare and have been loved, taken on adventures, and now they’re behind glass. I kept thinking about The Velveteen Rabbit and how loved toys become real. And that these once loved toys are now imprisoned behind glass. I wanted to know their stories, who had they belonged to, where had they been, rather than the dry ‘Made in Germany in 1930’ facts. I think what I wanted was more a Museum of toys and the stories they can tell us.
Murmurations are still mesmerising
We’ve been blessed with some stunning sunsets again this week. And the starlings are out mesmerising with their murmurations. I find the ebb and flow joyous and uplifting. I know I mentioned them last week as well. But they are such a joy to behold.
The Jubilee Library is a relaxing space
I’ve met a few people for coffee or lunch this week. In between these, I’ve taken to sitting in the library and writing or reading. As a child, I went to our local library in Hull with Mum every week or fortnight. They are places of comfort and familiarity. I understand what they are and how they work. And I like our Brighton library with its mixture of books, other media, workspaces, meeting places, cafe. It’s a vibrant, living space with a lovely relaxed energy.
Title doesn’t equal content
A friend and I went to the Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne. I haven’t been to Eastbourne for a very long time but someone had suggested that the gallery was worth a visit. So off I went. It’s a lovely space, wonderful high ceilings, simple, clean architecture to give the art a place to shine rather than distracting or clashing.
The exhibition that had drawn me in was titled Who You Walk With Alters What You See. The exhibition didn’t grab me. I wasn’t entranced by it, and I didn’t understand it. But I adore the title. Although as a thought I’d probably change it to ‘Who you walk with alters what you notice’. For instance:
- If I’m walking with the dog, I’m more likely to notice woodland mammals, other dogs, things that will attract or distract her.
- If I’m walking with my partially sighted friend (who went with me to the exhibition), I’m more likely to notice possible obstructions and trip hazards.
- If I’m walking a walk I’m familiar with, but with somebody for who it is new then I’ll point out my favourite spots (which I did on Monday with a friend).
And so I do notice different things with different people. Which isn’t something I’d previously considered.
So, another enjoyable week. And one where I’ve balanced doing with being.
So that was my first full week of Deliberate DownTime. And very enjoyable it was too. Here are my highlights and learnings.
DDT week 1 started with a trip to London to meet up with friends and go to the Tate Modern. We spent quite a bit of time in the Turbine Hall swinging on the Superflex swings and watching the pendulum above us. We spent the rest of our time on the viewing level getting a fantastic view across London. An enjoyable day, though I’m not sure I could have told you that the Superflex exhibition was all about apathy, production and movement had I not read about it.
On Sunday we popped into Berwick Church as the guide had mentioned it during my tour of Charleston Farmhouse in DDT 0.5. It is a beautiful and peaceful place. I was particularly taken with the clear glass windows. It was so refreshing to stand inside a church and appreciate the beauty outside rather than through stained glass. It felt unusual and beautiful. And reminded me of the view from behind the altar of the Church of the Good Shepherd overlooking Lake Tekapo in New Zealand
I watched a beautiful murmuration over the West Pier as the sun set on Monday evening. I wasn’t the only one to watch it. And I enjoyed seeing people stop as they were walking along the promenade and watch the starlings dance for a while. I even heard applause at one point as the birds flew directly overhead. I doubt that I will ever tire of watching murmurations. They are charming, and I find them very calming and hypnotic.
On Wednesday evening some of the choir, myself included, performed with the Nordic Giants on the stage at Concorde 2. We accompanied their final track Autonomous which is a beautiful, building piece. They’d composed it to accompany this video from the G20 summit. And we accompanied them. Dressed in the style of the grey people in that video. The song was a challenge to learn. And it felt mad to be emulsion painting clothes to get the desired effect. But I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it was all so worthwhile. It felt different to our usual gigs - I was less nervous and more excited. I enjoyed the build-up as we had hair done and faces painted and the amusement we all had as we took photos our ourselves and each other looking like zombies. There is a video of us performing recorded by one of my fellow Alto 2’s son. It was something I’m pleased to have been a part of and I can’t help but smile to myself everytime I think about it.
- I don’t eat as many biscuits when I’m at home as I did in the office (that’s a good thing)
- I don’t drink as much water at home as I did in the office (that’s not such a good thing)
- Meeting friends for lunch is lovely but does break up the day quite a lot, so I need to make sure I have a balance throughout my week so that every day doesn’t feel like it’s all about moving around from one place to another without sitting down and reflecting
- The Countdown music makes me anxious (I discovered this during James Box’s talk at UX Brighton)
- If you put a slide up that says something like ‘X things to do with Y’ then I will make notes - just in case it gets to point 3 and I feel I’ve missed something amazing (I discovered this in Daniel Harris’s talk at UX Brighton)