For all of us, time out in the fresh air , taking exercise , and enjoying the beauty of seaside, countryside and cityscapes is important . Whether walking as Penny and I do, or cycling as L does, we all want to stay fit , appreciating our surroundings, exploring new and pre-loved places . For none of us does the gym hold any interest !
Having our Merry-dog , is great. She gets us out and when we are indoors she gives us unconditional love and warm cuddles . And now I learn that having a dog is scientifically proven to reduce stress .
Being "differently occupied " over the last 10 months, has for me involved a good deal of time in carer -mode . Since early February dad has been in a nursing home . Apart from regular visiting, my responsibilities are largely ones of a practical and financial management nature. It's now 3 months on from his stroke, and this week we visited outpatients for a follow up appointment . Dad's hospital doctor expressed delight at his progress . Although he can only walk a few steps , he has regained so much of his functioning and is continuing to improve . For the first time since January 2nd we were able to take him down to see the sea and visit our house for a cuppa . He has certainly benefitted from the 24/7 Heath and social care services , not forgetting our therapeutic dog whose visits he so loves.
Being "differently occupied " I've re-found the headspace for reading novels and memoirs , something that I never managed when I was a local government CEO . Now I always have one book on the go, and a pile of others that I'm looking forward to . I have enjoyed such an eclectic range over the past months, some of which I've referred to in earlier blogs. My current read is the well reviewed " The Outrun" by Amy Liptrot , a beautifully written memoir , which begins ( and I think will end ) in the Orkneys , the beautiful place of her upbringing .
As well as reading , i've made time for writing, and most indulgent of all, I enjoyed a term's creative writing course , from Beach Hut writer/teacher, Araminta Hall. It was such a joy to get back to classroom learning and I even relished the homework! Her most recent novel, "Dot" , is on that pile I mentioned and I can recommend her first novel "Everything and nothing".
Anyone who knows me, is well aware that I love art . Being " differently occupied " means that I no longer miss exhibitions that I want to see. Indeed , we travel for our art, as we did recently to see the East London Group "Out of Town" at Beecroft gallery , Southend .
And I don't think we have missed an exhibition at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester , over the past year. The current exhibition is "the fabric of Modernism" , featuring the work of John Piper in textiles and tapestry. It's a stunning exhibition. I love his work and was amazed to learn that he did not design his first tapestry until he was in his sixties.
We are certainly getting value from our gallery memberships , of which Pallant House is but one.
And as well as enjoying the exhibitions, it's wonderful to meet at the member's room at Tate Modern to conduct mentoring sessions. The opportunity to support and challenge senior leaders who have sought me out is rewarding for me and ( I hope) valuable them . And I get the chance to pop into exhibitions on the way in and out .
Twitter certainly takes up more of my "differently occupied" time and provides a continued connectedness to the world of public service and its leaders and practitioners for whom I retain huge care and respect . I manage to keep up to date with policy and practice and to participate in debate.
Even today , one of the blogs I follow, " A London inheritance", highlights a set of statues that I was first introduced to by my artist brother. The statues are by Alfred Drury and F.W.Pomeroy and were added to Vauxhall Bridge in 1907 . On the the western side they represent Agriculture, Architecture, Engineering and Pottery . On the eastern side they represent Science, Fine Arts, Local Government and Education . It delights me to think of such recognition for some of my pet subjects ! Who knows about these hidden gems?
I could expand on other "work " as part of being "differently occupied " . I could illustrate the travel we have managed or the welcome extra time for our grown up children, friends and extended families . I could talk again about theatre and jazz which has delighted us . I think I will leave that for another week and end with a favourite East London Group picture . This takes me back to university in the early seventies at ( what was then) Queen Mary College, University of London , and then to social work in Tower Hamlets. Some would say being at uni was being "differently occupied" ; I hope they'd never say that about working for the citizens of Tower Hamlets as a Social Worker .