What am I?

P1070691Recently, a young woman mentioned that she thought I was a designer. I was really flattered. I don’t know why being thought of as a designer felt so much better than a management consultant or an HR professional? It made me think about how we label ourselves.

I have always felt that a being a professional is important and a good thing to do. It’s certainly provided a good life,  been interesting, challenging and sometimes a lot of fun. I realise that the thing I like most about my profession is the vast array of people I’ve met and worked with.  My life has definitely been enriched by working with amazing, talented, men and women of all ages and backgrounds.  I feel lucky that many of them are now good friends and I wouldn’t want to deny that part of my profession.

Creating solutions for all sorts of organisations has been challenging, exciting and I hope of value. Sometimes a  problem needs to be tackled or an opportunity can be built on. Its  engaging when things are complex and when there are several options to consider. Working with others, drawing on experience and professional expertise, we can often devise a solution which is the best fit. A good fit has always been important to me, it doesn’t have to be award winning, but it does have to be workable and agreeable to most of the people involved. So, I wouldn’t want to deny that part of my profession.

10 years ago a book I’d co authored with a friend and colleague was first published. It was  a major achievement and we wrote a few more books. I also wrote with other friends and colleagues and in total published nine books on different aspects of HR, Organisation Design & Learning and Development. I still struggle to call myself an Author and yet its been a major part of my working life for 10 years.  A friend contacted me after she had been doing some research on one of my subjects. She hadn’t known about the writing and was surprised to see that someone with my name seemed to be an authority on the subject. She wanted to know if it was just a coincidence. She, jokingly, called me an HR Guru! That label definitely doesn’t fit. When someone asks me what I do, I might mention being an Author, quickly apologising for the fact that I am not a fictional author!

So, why do some labels feel so much more exciting than others?

Am I an Author? Am I an HR expert? Am I a Designer? Am I a Housewife? Am I a blogger? or am I a woman enjoying an adventure in the South Atlantic who is taking time to learn new things?

 

Adult colouring

Yesterday someone told me that they would like to ‘colour me in’. I think they were referring to the mono top I was wearing, but, its an intriguing concept. If you were to colour someone in, how would you do it and what would you do? What colours would you use for them, soft autumnal watercolour or harsher peak summer acrylic?

Think about it for a moment, who would you like to colour in and what would you do?

Back to adult colouring, which by the way, isn’t on my f**k list.

A few years ago someone bought the Enchanted Garden adult colouring book for Christmas. The pencils were good quality and I loved adding stationary to my stash but the book sat there looking unloved and unused for about a year.

Then one day, in a conversation with a much loved friend I tore the book in half. My friend was surprised, but something in that conversation gave me the permission I felt I needed to tear it. Later  we retrieved the two halves as she felt the act of colouring didn’t depend on the picture being complete. She finally admitted that she loved to colour.

So here we have the nub, its a marmite activity.

Living in such a remote location I thought there might be little to do here and that I could get on with things I had procrastinated about before. Some people complain that living here is boring and there’s nothing to do. I wonder if they would benefit from a copy of the Secret Garden or the Enchanted Forest? For me, there’s always lots to do: watching  penguins waddle; searching the shoreline for signs of dolphins feeding in the kelp; learning some new skill such as weaving or just hanging out with amazing people.

Since starting to write this morning I’ve had coffee and a conversation with two truly engaging women. They help people of all ages colour and they do it in service of tranquility.  Research on colouring isn’t conclusive. Many people report that when they colour they feel better, less stressed or depressed and more creative. I feel sure that its like any active meditation, it helps you to focus and that’s good for mental health.

So, should I struggle with the things that are on my to do list, I could always return to it. In the meantime, I will reflect on the idea of one person colouring in another 😉

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Surf Bay

Six ducks waddle along the flat, wet part of the sand. They seem to giggle and chat to each other, no doubt bemoaning the winds which have returned to the islands. As they approach the water the waves crash around them. Out at sea a huddle of ducks surf the waves. Meanwhile, on the beach, a large, rocklike creature moves his flipper. He doesn’t open his eyes, he just rolls back into place on the sand, asleep, perhaps, or feigning it. The large gash across his face creates a permanent, deceptive smile. This is the most fearless and ferocious seal on the islands. A leopard seal can rip a child’s leg off.

Wandering down the beach is a small group, possibly cruise ship daytrippers. An older man strides forward and points his camera. He’s so close that it could reach him in a single lumbering bound. People don’t realise how fast they can move. Part of me wants to shout, to warn them, and the other steps back with almost curious detachment.

The wind is stronger now. The occasional gust lifts sand to rasp my face. I wrap a scarf around my face and turn, putting the wind at my back. At this end of the beach an Oyster catcher is dancing in hope of a mate. He is watched with disdain by a small group of seagulls, bickering occasionally amongst themselves. There are several different types of seagull wandering on the beach and occasionally fighting. One of them jumps onto a lump of seaweed which has hardened in the sun. He looks like he is addressing the flock. He certainly makes enough noise and flapping his large wings he seems to attract attention. Slowly a rival approaches him from the rear and then with a quick flick of his beak knocks the first bird off his perch. As I walk towards them, the birds spread their wings and lift from sand to sky. Seconds after I pass they will settle to carry on with their chattering, pecking and squaking.

I start to walk to the car and take one last look out to sea and notice a dark shape in the water. The dolphins are back! A warm glow spreads through me and I start to smile. I don’t know why, but I think of a Dolphin sighting as a positive omen. They live here all the time, but though I walk every day I often catch no sign of them. Today they are hunting for food in the kelp close to the shore. Perhaps yesterday’s storm has shifted something. I forget the cold as I watch them. A wave builds and, for just a moment, I see them as clearly as if I was looking into a fish tank. Several dolphins are swimming with the wave, straight towards me. It all happens too quickly for me to get the camera ready. No one will believe this without a photo. As soon as the surf crashes the image is gone.

First Guests

As I sit here waiting for friends to arrive from the UK I am grateful for the new friends I’ve found here.

I’ve tended to start working most mornings at about 6am which gives me time to get my UK calls done and work started whilst still in my pyjamas. By 7.30am I know I have to get ready, showered and dressed because C comes to clean. Only today, she’s ill. I was beside myself with fear and loathing. Fear that I would be judged for having an untidy house and loathing that I hadn’t made time to clean it yesterday after I’d had my major curry cook in. D to rescue, she organised and helped me to prioritise. She finds it strange that I have so much stuff with me as she has worked hard to be minimalist. All the more reason to thank her for her support today.

Sitting waiting for John to bring A and D home I wonder what will the next 10 days hold for us? I’m hoping they’ll meet some amazing people. The point of a land based trip is to get to know some of the culture and customs of the islands so we’ll have Smoko and my Chay’s will come round for dinner.

They will see lots and lots of wildlife, hear stories about the Falklands conflict with Argentina. Drink some Falklands Beerworks beer – I’m told the Rockhopper is particularly good. They’ll hopefully have some local Squid cooked in a variety of ways and they will go back knowing the Falkland Islands and the Islanders.

I think I hear the car doors and the struggle to carry bags up the stairs so I’m off to say hello.

Is writing ever easy?

P1070751Its been a while since I updated my blog. I’ve been writing, but nothing I could post. Recently I started working with a wonderful writing coach and so did a series of writing exercises. These aim to help me learn different aspects of creative writing. Currently it feels like a mountain higher than any I’ve ever tried to climb to get some of them started.

‘ Write as if you are an inanimate object’ my wonderful coach suggested. OOKaaay, thats easy – not, was my child like internal response.  It was the hardest of the exercises and I didn’t do it well but I did complete it.

Whilst procrastinating, I met with a friend for a coffee and told her about my challenge. ‘Ooh, what a lovely idea’ she looked upward for a moment ‘I’d like to be a gate post’, I smiled and nodded and waited for her to continue. ‘I hope that bloody sheepdog doesn’t pee against me again today’ ‘why won’t the farmer come and tidy me up. I need a good clean and paint; the lichen is making me itch.’ ‘Perhaps a sheep will come along and rub itself against me – here sheep – here sheep – can’t those sheep hear me calling?’ ‘Kids are kicking a ball at me again, I hate it when they do that’ ‘OOh, I wonder who’s visiting in a brand new Land Rover, farmer won’t be happy, he hates it when someone has a better car than his’ and so on. As she talked I could see the carmudgeonly gatepost that liked to gossip. My bistro table was, however, not getting any action. I finally forced myself to write something and send it off.

Its interesting to learn how many different skills there are in writing. I thought I could just sit down at a computer and start my story but I have a long way to go before that’s a possibility. For now, I am back to my exercises and today its about music which hopefully will be a little easier. Writing an exercise with a suggested 10 minute time slot and permission to have fun, write everything that comes into your mind however silly, and don’t edit should be easy. It is fun most of the time and it does generate some creative ideas. It also takes you back to situations you’ve experienced. A word can trigger a thought, an exercise about shoes, and I was taken back to a time when I coveted a pair of Cinderella perspex sandals. As you can imagine, that was never going to end well for me!

A bigger barrier to writing is that its just so very easy to get distracted here. The islands are really beautiful, many of the people are amazing and there’s lots for me to do. I find it hard to believe that, for this year, I only have 7 weeks more FI adventure. It strikes me that a good outcome for those 7 weeks would be to complete the exercises and to start the novel properly with my character having her own voice. I’ve set out my goal to help me focus, feel free to check in with me to see how I am doing and to keep me honest.

I will also be doing other things and will blog about those another day.

 

Falkland Islands 3200: O2 London 20000

When I was last in the UK I was trying to explain how small is the Falkland Islands population (3200) to my God-daughter. ‘So its like a small town’ she said and I nodded ‘ yes, but a very small town and probably smaller than any you’ve visited’ I explained. Her eyes glazed over as she nodded sagely. I knew she wasn’t getting it, she couldn’t understand the scale, so I suggested ‘check out the O2 in London, what’s the capacity?’ She looked it up on her iPhone ‘20,000 people’. The 02 can accommodate nearly 8 times the population of the Falkland Islands. Wembley stadium with a capacity of 90,000 would envelope our population about 28 times. I think she got it!

What of these 3200 people?  So far, luckily, I’ve only met wonderful people.

W was my first friend on the island. A brilliant mind, a warm heart and a wonderful sense of community she gives help and support wherever she can. With a huge network she introduces people and can always find a connection with others. She’s a teacher by profession and even though she retired she’s still facilitating and enabling people to learn. She is the type of person with whom you can have a deep and challenging conversation and then be a bit silly. She is direct and honest and she reminds me of the head girl at my school who seemed to be good at everything but humble in her achievements. I wrote about W some time ago and now she will soon return to the islands and I am so looking forward to seeing her.

S is highly creative, determined, generous, warm, kind and again has a sharp mind. A strong woman who is devilishly proud of her family. She shares knowledge and facilitates learning. She is someone who intuitively knows when I might feel a bit low and she will call or text to suggest a meet or to have a brief chat. To know there is someone looking out for you, particularly when you spend long days alone, is a gift. I am loving learning so much that is new to me. Ive also been able to share my thoughts about my future ventures and had some wise counsel.

N has an amazingly sharp mind. I suspect she could do anything she turned her hand to. She cares deeply and is widely respected. Some people shine in a small place,  but might struggle elsewhere, not N she’d shine wherever she landed. I’ve learnt many things and we have the most hilarious conversations. A recent evening with friends ended in side splitting laughter. I’ve no doubt the produced endorphins definitely strengthened my immunity to the bug which is going around Stanley. Before I leave, I’m looking forward to finishing some projects with her.

Until I started to write this I didn’t notice the themes. They’re appearing though: sharp intelligence, kindness and friendship, creativity, teaching or facilitating learning and a ‘can do’ attitude. These are all women who get things done and done well. I feel so very lucky to have found such wonderful friends.

There are many other people I’ve met who are equally amazing.  It seems the lure of the islands attracts an array of talented people who like to connect and engage in the community. Its a privilege to know them and to spend time with them. As many of them are quite private I won’t write more.

As I finish this piece, I’m left wondering if the prospect of living in an isolated but immensely beautiful part of the world attracts a higher proportion of people with great interpersonal skills and an array of talents? I also wonder if living in a small community forces people to engage more and to be kinder than they might be otherwise?

Whats it like to live in the Falklands?

Its a difficult question to answer.

You know most people but not all. You raise your hand to acknowledge other drivers in most but not all cases.

Wine and meat are cheap but fruit and veg are very expensive.

Shopping 

In Stanley, there are two large grocery shops and they both sell an array of merchandise in addition to the usual weekly shop, things like ski poles in one or pretty jumpers in another. There are 3 convenience stores one gas station and about 5 pubs. There are a couple of clothing shops but the ranges are small. A few gift shops survive by doing great trade with cruise line customers. These shops sell a mix of merchandise but my favourite items are those locally designed and made. People spin and dye wool which can be bought in Skeins. Other people use the wool to make hats, scarves and wraps. Some people do felting and sell felt pictures. Now I’ve met people locally I better understand just how much work goes into producing each item. Jam made from a tiny berry which grows on the Diddle Dee plant can be found in some shops. There is little time or need to go shopping but there is a hive of activity going on in homes where people are making stuff for ‘The Season’.

Another of my favourite shops is one that sells fresh fruit and vegetables. They have an array of poly tunnels which they use to grown produce to used by locals and sold in the shop. Lamb or beef are inexpensive here and no doubt are the main food.

People 

Whats it like? Its mesmerising, so like the UK and yet so very different. You feel comfortable and at home quickly because things are familiar and then you hear a word like Smoko and you have no idea what people are talking about. There is a mix of Islanders ( which normally means they can date their island heritage back many generations and mostly came from UK).

Other groups include Contractors (here for a specific contract as a Teacher, Accountant, Treasurer or the Chief Executive normally on a 2 year contract).The common phrase you hear is that people came here for a 2 year contact but ended up staying 15, 20, 25, 30 years.

The next group are Chilean immigrants who come here to take up work, have children and eventually become Islanders. Zimbabweans come here to do de-mining, they bring their families and may eventually end up staying. People from the Philippines came to take up work in shops and hotels and many have stayed to take up residency. Most people can tell you who the first Philippina was and why she came. I haven’t asked but the same is probably true of Chileans.

Then you have an array of other nationalities who came to do something and then just couldn’t leave. All of these new people bring new blood and create a thriving social and economic community. They also bring amazing skills and knowledge to the islands, its not unusual to have a conversation and to find that the person you are talking to has had an amazing career somewhere before coming here. I think we have almost every skill you could imagine needing on the islands.

The population is growing very quickly. The primary school is full and all of the people who settle here can one day become UK citizens if they first become Falkland Islanders. They will have free access to the UK health care system and the right to abode in the UK.

Everyday stuff

Whats it like?  We suffer from Falklands Trouser leg and Falklands Hair.

As everyone drives big cars and some roads are unmade there is always dust or mud on the car so when I get out I inevitably catch my trouser on the step and this results in an ungainly muddy stain on the leg of my trousers. See examples.

Falklands hair, well the winds are so strong that you must always have a hat to hand. I still blow-dry my hair most days thought not sure why as I then put a hat on every time I leave the house. My hair is flattened, or worse if I forget the hat, I look wrecked.

Every time you leave the house to visit the penguins you need to take a camera, binoculars, a bottle of water, sunglasses, a hat, scarf, padded jacket and walking boots. You need to dress for 4 seasons!

and finally

I can’t think of anywhere more beautiful and inspiring for creativity than the Falkland Islands. I only wish it were a tad warmer!