Friday, 23 May 2014

The best laid schemes o' mice and men?

Morning has broken

Morning has broken

Clear clear skies after the storm

Birds are forming 

Their morning chorus

Heard only by us it seems

The cockerel heralds the village to work

The mountains raise out their arms

As if to say..this is ours

Tree wooded mountains 

With snow still clinging on

To the ragged peaks

Late spring means poppies

Wild roses in every hedgerow

The fields still green before

The heat burns them brown

The fruits of autumn only a promise still

The sun still soft warms our skins

We shift our rhythms to this ancient pace

A new dog says a shy hello

Perhaps he will return?

Let our time here unfold...

The grand plan in this visit is for me to be working on my book. In my head I'm working mornings and holidaying in the afternoon. So the news our house had been burgled in our absence wasn't welcome. The cooker, fridge, boiler and washing machine, table and chairs  gone. Our first day therefore visiting the police station.

It's a communist era building so not a heartwarming spot. The people however are friendly and we were greeted by a young police woman, a detective I guess as she was not in uniform. Neither was she in a Sarah Lund style unisex jumpers. No, we are talking skin tight dungarees, stylish top and her leather jacket hung casually on the door. A regular olive skinned Bulgarian beauty. Andrew,my husband, sat up straight the whole visit.

She pulled out a long slim cigarette-untipped-the image of cool as she typed. It seemed churlish to protest. However in time my asthmatic lungs did. Her remorse was genuine and I left to sit outside. A more traditional older woman in a square shirt ( I think they are traditional dress in rural communities for women of a certain age...I'm a strange ,fair anomaly ) showed me past the cells-gulp-to the toilet. I imagine double locks are de-riguer around there? I doubled locked myself in it.

Then I sat on a bench outside as the sun gradually moved till i was out of the shade and waited till the complex form filling was complete. I didn't expect the huge grin on Andrews face as he emerged with Nick, our right hand man out here. It seems the young detective had commented on how young Andrew looked for his age. Nick laughed and translated it for him. I expect the spring in his step will last the whole holiday!

Day two finds me at my desk and ready for action. What a wonderful, if at times flawed, place this is.
Any biscuits?
 I wonder if the shepherds dog will visit soon? Pungent he maybe but that big grin is a lovely antidote to the smell. 
Ok, let the writing begin.... 
All set...

Friday, 16 May 2014

Data with a Soul

The power of stories and other symbols to enable us to connect to our deeper wisdoms,to

help us access other perspectives has been a theme for me of late. I loved  Brene Brown's description of stories as data with a soul. And this week I have also reflected on the power of images and poetry to do that too. The perfect image or poem is able to bring insights just outside of our awareness; to be open enough for us to paint on our own landscapes of discovery. It's left me with a commitment to use imagery and poetry more in my work. I would love to hear about the poems that move you in some way.

And it was this poetic flow that led me to write the simple poem below. It's a tribute to an ancient tree in the grounds of Hawkwood, it's thought to be the oldest sycamore in the UK. Recently it lost a major branch and some of it sits nestled beside its roots. Some work will be done now by registered experts to prevent any further damage to the tree, it will be trimmed and protected with loving care;it's age, it's very preciousness.

I wonder how different our world would be if we treated our older people with such reverence. If we too could see their beauty through their broken branches and only allow experts to restore their health with tender care. What can we learn from this ancient sycamore?

The Sycamore in Hawkwood

The Sycamore

The oldest in the park

Stands tall and beautiful

Precarious branches stretch out

Home for curious squirrels

And birds shelter in their regal home

A stream nestles underneath

Water finding its way above ground

To feed this fertile grove

Visitors make a rhythmic path

To its roots, bedded under the tree

A tree of life it is

And yet it's broken too

The ancient trunk with a limb cleaved off

It's sits there, a reminder of what has been

A huge scar it's tribute

 A flaw in its ancient presence

And yet still part of its splendour

A reminder of its resilience

A knowing of a simple truth

It's who I am and that's enough

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Working with compassion

I moved back to Edinburgh almost four years ago now and I still marvel at what a  wonderful place it is  to live, the history, the beauty, the Botanic gardens, the international buzz, the trams (almost)- oh yes and a Waitrose on the doorstep too!.

The Facebook page "overheard in Waitrose" is a gentle mockery of the type of clientele, with quotes like Darling, do we need parmesan for both houses?” and reflections on its lower price essential range; “you know it’s Waitrose when the brioche are essential”. And an article in the cruelly ironic Daily Mash a few years ago following a fairly damning public health report decried what Scotland really needed was a few more Waitrose. You had to laugh.but actually what I really love about Waitrose is the experience. Yes the quality of the food is excellent ( and ok maybe just a bit on the luxury side) but so are the staff excellent. The same is true of the sister company John Lewis, my favourite department store.

So what makes it stand out? The model of the company is an employee partnership one, and the partners influence the direction of the organisation too. So the profits go back into the hands of all those who created them, a shared benefit from a shared effort, and a love and pride in what they do. Not only does that create a stable and high performing business, a good experience for the customer but it also means those profits are invested right back into the local economies, benefiting everyone. Its a great model and that clearly translates in to a good experience for all.

I was inspired by what I learned about employee partnership models in the TIGERoadshow I was part of this week, here is the TED talk explaining the power of this approach. It left me inspired and also thinking, why aren't more businesses working that way?

The TIGERoadshow ( Trust and Integrity in the Global Economy) by the IofC  had truly inspiring speakers. I had been asked to step in at fairly short notice and agreed as I was already booked to go to the event, so my diary was clear. I planned my talk touching on- and I hope- seeding interest in my as yet unpublished research for Oasis School of Human Relations and also I spoke of my own experience.  My anxiety levels rose as I listened to the other speakers such as Lady Susan Rice and Margaret Hefferman. I realised I may be the only speaker there who didn't have a book or indeed a TED talk! How could I follow them? But I spoke my truth and it seemed to go ok. The day closed with the CEO of FARE describing his own story and work. It was so inspiring and he told the story with eloquence and compassion. 

Indeed storytelling was a theme, the power of stories to change the way we work, the priorities we have, the way we enable the unheard to be heard. It reminded me of the power of  telling your story, whatever it is, as maybe it will help someone be inspired to try something different, or know where to get help or even just simply to know they aren't alone.

Reasons to be mindful.

I'm on a weekend Mindfulness and Compassion Course this weekend. And Im also visiting the lovely Hawkwood college for my gestalt group. Im hoping I will be wiser by this time next week. Wish me luck!
Hawkwood College

Friday, 2 May 2014

Brassed off?

Bamburgh beach and one very happy dog!
We can reminisce fondly about times portrayed by Call the Midwife, when nursing and medicine appeared at least to be more family centred but lets be honest with ourselves, these were not times to be ill. Even when I first started nursing if you were unfortunate enough to have significant arthritis, your life was defined by disability and pain and on many occasions you would be housebound and largely immobile. Asthma over a lifetime lead to chronic obstructive airways disease and permanent wheeze. Heart failure too kept people housebound and immobile. And we never spoke  of cancer survivors, only one outcome was anticipated. Even Type 1 diabetes was a terminal disease until the 1930's.

Modern treatments have made a huge difference. I have the privilege to be working temporarily with Arthritis Care Scotland as Interim Director just now and am inspired by young people with rheumatoid arthritis achieving so much in their lives and older people having their lives transformed by joint replacements, only dreamed of years ago. And as Director for Breakthrough Breast Cancer  I saw many after treatment for cancer return to their lives and be reassured by survival statistics.

BUT those stories and statistics hide a huge amount of pain both physical and emotional, they don't talk of the compromises made in order to keep going, to remain positive.

What is seen as a medical breakthrough is rarely without its complications, without its side effects which become part of the pay off. And I do understand that for many, that is well worth the side effects to rid yourself of debilitating wheeze, to thrive with diabetes, to decrease pain, to rid yourself of cancer; for the healthcare team it's job done, for the person it's just beginning.

It's no coincidence that Arthritis Care have been pioneers in self management because they know well that surviving a life with constant pain is about more than painkillers. It's about many different coping strategies and a mindset to enable you to care for yourself. It's hard, hard work that many of us would find difficult to contemplate. And the work of the charity is to support people to do that, it's impressive in its range and ambition but no one pretends its easy.

And it's not just about medicine as any of us know who live with any long term condition. Just this week research in the US showed that people are significantly more likely to be unemployed after a breast cancer diagnosis and if their treatment has included chemotherapy their incidence of unemployment is even higher. Social factors need to be considered when treatments are planned. Apparently the UK is now climbing out of recession but in a time when we have more working poor than non-waged poor and the use of food banks are rising exponentially, then any illness and treatment that threatens your income and employment will be a significant stressor. These are some of the unsaids in cancer treatment and long term conditions. Depression is a common complication of many conditions and yet it's often unreported, held as a shame by those experiencing it. They are lucky after all, it was so much worse before, wasn't it?

What makes social media so powerful is that many online communities such as the breast cancer #BCSM and blogs like Marie's Journey Beyond Breast Cancer are blowing some of those myths, survivors are telling their stories and more is being understood as a result. But is everyone listening yet? I'm not sure they are. Charities often play an important role in amplifying that voice but may still be seen as peripheral to care and support. If we want to make care more person centred then we need to listen more and assume less. The voices are out there I know they can help please let's start listening to them.

Reasons to be grateful and mindful.

We had a lovely week of beach walks in Northumberland and special family time last week. It was wonderful. Also on May 1 I went to see Brassed Off at the theatre in Edinburgh. It's a production to commemorate 30 years since the miners strike. May 1 would have been my Dad's birthday and as an ex miner who cared passionately about the people in the industry, it was a poignant way to remember him. The music was wonderful and the playing of Danny Boymy undoing. But the speech here from the film Brassed Off, carried the powerful message I remember most. The human impact of political decisions the theme. An important reminder for us all isn't it?