This connected life

I have a WordPress mentor – even though she may not know it yet! Somewhat ironically, here in the online world through Barb’s let it go coach blogs I’m learning a huge amount about the power of disconnecting from the internet.  In our screen-free times we can unexpectedly find kindred spirits, just by being present. And yet, there is community right here too, in the web.

It seems only appropriate at this point to remember the exuberant ‘Thanks Tim’ (Berners-Lee) tribute to this crazy new connected world…

What delights me about this film is that I remember what so many of us Brits loved about the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony – it connected us with real stories of real people, and celebrated the madcap wonderfulness of this little island we call home. This flash-mob performed by the all-volunteer cast of ‘Thanks Tim’ invites onlookers to share the moment, to share the excitement.

Now, I’m holding my hands up – today has not been an entirely screen-free day: clearly I’m here on the laptop writing! (and I’ve used WhatsApp & email while in a car park)  However, in the main, my phone has been lost at the bottom of my handbag. So today there were some really uplifting moments of human connection.

I dropped off yesterday’s batch cooking with one of my dearest friends.  On my to-do list for the rest of the morning (typed on Google Keep, of course) was email chasing, Facebook group moderating, long-overdue texts to friends who pop in to my mind before I go to sleep.  But on my heart was to sit on my friend’s bed, bring her some breakfast and just be present with someone who I love to bits.

Keep list abandoned, I had some time to walk to the high street in the autumn sunshine. It still feels so warm here in Devon on days when there is rich September sun and blue sky. I’d got my outfit wrong for the temperature (cowl-neck grey knitted jumper and black leggings) and so decided to browse the Hospiscare charity shop.  I was laughing with the shop assistant about the fact that I’d had to wear my running trainers to the school run with this outfit, because I have no shoes except flip-flops and a pair of Fly wedge sandals. I managed to find a pair of red suede pumps for £3 and a Jaeger jumper-dress with a red trim for £6.  It was really nice to head off to my lunchtime meeting without the running trainers!

Google maps (I know!) found me a great route on the country roads to my meeting venue.  As I was driving over a humpback bridge and up a huge hill, there was a guy with his thumb out for a lift.  I was fiddling with the volume on the car radio to hear the Google directions, and didn’t really register him at first.  Husband might have something to advise about this – but I pulled over and asked him where he was heading.  He just needed a lift ten minutes up the road on my route, so the poor guy climbed into the back seat (Little One’s car seat was in the front passenger side) and over a serious amount of detritus in the foot-well.  He was a chef who’d had an unexpected night out following a private function and needed to get home to collect his car.  We had a great chat about Eldest’s ambition to bake cakes & patisserie professionally, and he was so enthusiastic about the potential to make a career of it.  He really brightened my day, and gave me a hug and a huge thank-you when I had to get out of the car to let him out of the child-locked door.  I carried on my journey with a smile on my face.

The meeting venue was just beautiful, right by the river Plym.  It was in full flow and we could hear the rush of the water while we talked about the development of the ‘We are Family’ course for parents of young people with psychosis.  It was one of those meetings where we were really tuned in to each other’s perspectives and there were brilliant ideas about how to make the course a true space for peer-support.

Little One was crying when I picked her up from the playground.  Tears rolled down her cheek as she huddled in the heavy rain-storm (welcome to the Devon weather).  She was worried that we wouldn’t be able to play in the park on her scooter as I’d promised.  I had no coat, the new shoes on… but there was a kids’ “Mr Tumble” umbrella in the car, she had her showerproof coat on, so I reassured her that of course we could get the scooter and she could have a spin in the park.

I stood in the park, in the pouring rain, in my red shoes with the tiny yellow spotty umbrella.  More moments of humour and connection as the mums and dads passing ‘complimented’ me on my choice of rain-wear.

So I guess the lessons learned from today are twofold:

  1. Prepare your outfits adequately for the vagaries of the weather
  2. The internet can serve you well as long as it helps you to truly connect with your fellow human beings

Mr Tumble







Finely tuned

I was talking to my husband a couple of nights ago.  I reflected on the ways that life seems to need a bit more fine-tuning for me than the average bear.

fine tuning

I’m enjoying it though, you know, the fine-tuning.  Sitting down with my Google calendar on the cusp of a new term, and making sure there is space.  Space to book in a day for oddly compelling jobs, like sorting out the crap drawer (we all have one… the random keys, Blu-Tac, tape-measure kind of drawer).

Space to swim in the river Dart or the sea down at Jacob’s Ladder.  To take a flask of peppermint tea and rest by the water’s edge.

Fine-tuning this term has meant resisting the temptation to take on a few more paid hours.  To recognise that Eldest has both excitement and challenges coming up as she starts high school, and she may well need her mum more.  She sometimes talks about her fears of me becoming unwell at the start of a new academic year – it’s such a season of change.

But this year the change is good.  It’s a change in my expectations of myself, a willingness to leave space and embrace it.  Two Septembers ago I was afraid of the space, driven by a fear that – at 40 – I was pretty much at the last chance saloon in terms of finding a career.

This September I’m at peace.  The work will still be there when the time is right.



A beautiful friend pointed out to me that my balance of work at the moment is a winning combination for my personality!  I have space to explore my creativity through cooking & writing, there’s intellectual stimulation through being part of cutting-edge research applications, and I get periods of ‘extrovert time’ when I’m delivering training.

I’m nourished by all of these things.  I’m nourished by writing recipes, translating research into everyday language and working with my co-facilitator to plan engaging, supportive training.  I’m also continuing to learn to replenish my energy with time that’s just for me. Is it weird that I find watching an episode of Skins on the sofa in the daytime deeply relaxing? (Maybe it’s an attempt to prepare myself for the imminent teenage years for Eldest…)

Nashville: The Complete Soundtrack has been the accompaniment to my cooking today. Country music is so full of storytelling, and so melodic.  I love being able to join in with the harmonies while I slice vegetables and select spices.

Here are a couple of really simple soups from my growing collection


Roasted veg & brown lentil soup

  • 1/2 swede or celeriac
  • 3 carrots
  • 2 parsnips
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1 jar passata
  • 500 ml vegetable stock
  • 150g brown lentils
  1. Chop all the root vegetables into small-medium sized chunks
  2. Roast with the olive oil, maple syrup and wholegrain mustard for 30 mins at 180c
  3. Meanwhile, simmer the lentils in the passata and stock
  4. Add the root vegetables to the lentils & passata and simmer for a further 10-20 mins


Red pepper, carrot and red lentil soup

  • 4 carrots
  • 4 red peppers
  • 250g red lentils
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1200-1500ml vegetable stock, depending on how thick you like the soup
  1. Fry the garlic and fennel seeds in olive oil for 2-3 mins
  2. Add the red peppers and carrots, cut into medium sized chunks
  3. Add the lentils, oregano and stock
  4. Season
  5. Simmer for 30-40 mins
  6. Blend