Rainy Day Office Companions

Bikes against a wall through a window

Some days are just plain soggy. The rain has been hammering at the window for hours. Walking the dog has been a wet affair. I’ve spent much of the day at my desk with a pot of tea by my side.

Hamster on a desk

I’ve heard that working from home can be lonely, perhaps particularly so when the damp keeps all our doors firmly shut. But, I’m pretty happy hibernating on a day like this. After all, it’s still a hive of activity in this little room..

Hamster on the desk, with pen pots

I’ll admit some of us are busier than others. Mabel is a master in carrying her entire body weight in sunflower seeds across the length of the desk at high speed. Rolo offers a fine repertoire of creaky yawns, enormous sighs and full-body stretches. He’s certainly fitting more yoga into his day than I am.

Dog sleeping on the floor

I’m settling in to the routine of self-employed life, discovering the delights and challenges of being accountable to noone but myself. Early days have involved plenty of big-sketch planning, strong black coffee and fresh air. And why not? I’m pretty sure Mabel won’t bust my ass for taking a long lunch break.

White Winter Dwarf hamster on table in front of laptop

PS – you can catch up on my recent SaLT by the Sea work over here.

Monday Mornings

Bikes by Cowes Harbour, Isle of Wight

I have only four more of these Monday mornings headed Up Mainland, before these plans kick in full time. I’m trying to enjoy the early starts, the extra coffees, and motorway mayhem, knowing that in less than four weeks I’ll be having none of it.

So, for now, my mornings go something like this.

6am wake-up: with Radio 4 and the gentle negotiation over who will have first shower and consequently forfeit the default lie-in. I’m usually up first. Strangely, Tom doesn’t spend so long with the hair dryer.

Coffee in the grinder, kettle on, and a general fret over what to wear, specifically whether I can get away with spending the day in trainers.

Walking down to the Red Jet

6.30am breakfast: better be happening about now if I’m to catch the ferry. After granola/toast/yoghurt/all of the above I faff around in a haphazard fashion until the radio pips push me out the door.

7am walk down the hill. The way the morning light grows every day feels like the most optimistic thing. Gravity is with me on this easy stride down to the sea. No more dark, windy, rainy mornings. Now it’s just the long downhill to summer.

View from the seats inside Red Jet ferry

7.15am boat ride: across the Solent. At it’s best a peaceful, spacious glide across sunlit seas. It’s not always at its best.

7.45am skate: across Southampton to my parked car. Addictive fun. Don’t know why I didn’t think of this two years ago.

Rusty's foot and penny board

8am battle through Southampton traffic: to wherever I’m headed first. Today, it’s a visit to a nursery to see how they support children’s talking through play. I hope your Monday morning is a good one.

M3 road from a car

Almost there..

Rusty running to the top of Appuldurcombe Down, Isle of Wight

I’ve finally almost made it through this term. Just one more week of dashing around the county, hauling training materials and delivering endless workshops. It’s been a bit like the Rusty Roadshow these last few months. I enjoy training, but have recently done so much I feel like I’m auditioning for Groundhog Day 2. No wonder I’ve been trying to take a chilled approach to the festive buildup.

Things should start winding down this week, albeit with a bittersweet tang. On Friday I say goodbye to three members of the team, who I’ll sorely miss. We’ll meet over coffee and mince pies, with an eye to the holidays and the fun to be had.

I’m looking forward to mornings under the duvet with a book, restocking the wood pile, seeing the family, and sampling plenty of homebaked goodies. Just one more week to get through first. I hope your week treats you well.

Gingerbread decoration hanging from tree

Pencil & Paper

Pens and notebooks

A notebook is the perfect solution to so many situations: facing that blank white screen or starting out on a new project, finding yourself at a cafe without a book, or wrestling with a million to-dos.  I rely on a computer as much as the next guy, and would be lost without Evernote.  But nothing beats a blank piece of paper and a 2B pencil to get me thinking.

My love of stationery means I’m always noticing notebooks.  The carpenter who fitted the new kitchen got my instant seal of approval for using Field Notes. The perfect notebook for everyday, they fit in a back pocket, with a soft cover, feint squared paper, and a ruler marked on the back (ok, I’ve never used the ruler, but I like the idea that I might.)

I type my to do lists and meeting notes, but both jobs are far better on the odd occasion when I get out paper and pencil.  I was in a meeting yesterday where we had paper taped to the table.  People kept adding to it as our plans developed, or pointed to previous points to recall them. We were, quite literally,  all on the same page.  I stumbled across this talk on graphic recording which puts it perfectly.

When working in pre-schools I often recommend visual schedules to help children with limited language or high anxiety know what to expect in their day.  And I’ve realised I do this for myself.  I’ve heard frequent mention of people with ‘too many open tabs’ in the brain: so many things rumbling in the background, so much to do, and all a bit of a jumble.  Doodling helps me iron these out.

And my doodling is dodgy. I don’t have a great wealth of artistic skill to call upon; I lack perspective, scale, shape.  But it doesn’t matter.  I’ve got over being embarrassed about my bad drawing and I actually like to share this weakness with others.  It makes our conversations feel more honest, less about putting up our ‘best front’.

I can’t give up the screen; it makes my life so much easier.  Computers keep me organised and efficient.  But paper brings me joy and inspiration.

New Words

Sunrays behind clouds at sunset

I’m not one for new year resolutions but, being a word nerd, I do like to nominate a word for the year. My 2013 word was resilience. I had recently taken on a new job that presented a whole host of challenges: setting up a service, managing a team, and generally sticking my neck on the line. I felt the weight of people critiquing my actions and the vulnerability of exposing my mistakes. So, I’ve learnt to be a little tougher, acknowledge errors and move on, rather than cringe and wallow. I’ve become surer of my own decisions and been happier to stand up for my ideas.

Having survived 2013 and toughened up a little, I want to keep my momentum going, pursue and actually complete all the many plans I scribble in to notebooks late at night. So my 2014 word is projects, to generally be up and doing.. creating lovely things, learning new piano tunes, writing more (including about my work as a Speech and Language Therapist) and reading many more books (a pretty constant endeavour…) I hope 2014 is looking good from where you’re sitting. I’m excited to start sharing it with you!