Category Archives: Story

Toast Can Never Be Bread Again 

Toast can never be bread again.

I learnt loads this time last year. I didn’t choose to, I didn’t intend to. It’s almost as if learning happens all the time anyway (fancy that). Especially when we reflect on an experience (age old Kolb).

This summer I learnt that lakes can be as still as glass. Memorisingly reflecting the world back to you, surrounding you in an optical illusion. They can also have tides, waves and eddies. I learnt that when you’re crewing a boat, any boat, and you experience the waves, you should always cut them at 45 degrees. To face them head on would lift the front and then the back of the boat significantly. Tipping you out of balance with the person behind you. To face them bow side would increase the chances of capsize. You would both roll into the water. When the waves are 2ft high and your boat is less that 1ft deep… you would both roll into the water.

But when you cut the waves, you rise and fall together. You flow with the pace and force of the wave and let it take you the direction the wind chooses. You don’t get to have control. Even if your final destination isn’t always in your sight line and the stern faces a different way. The wrong way. Even when you know it’s going to get tougher before it gets easier. You ride the wave and keep paddling and master the boat. It’s your boat.

I paused and thought about giving up. My arm was tired. Arms. Were. I never ordered a side of adrenaline (Americans always go large on sides).

There was no ‘give up’ option.

Stack the toast together. Relax, yes. Conserve your energy there is more to come.



Have you seen the film Spotlight?

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we spend most of our time stumbling around the dark. Suddenly, a light gets turned on and there’s a fair share of blame to go around. I can’t speak to what happened before I arrived, but all of you have done some very good reporting here. Reporting that I believe is going to have an immediate and considerable impact on our readers. For me, this kind of story is why we do this“. (Spotlight, 2015)

It’s one of those films that everyone should see.

It’s powerful, and poignant, and reminds us all that we are only human. And with that we are fallible. And with that we have a responsibility to other people who we live beside. Even if we are in a different layer/corner of society your paths do cross if you choose to notice – Siobhan Sheridan illustrates this here.

A year ago this week a 13 year old girl was found hanging in some bushes a few streets away from her family home. Close to houses on an estate. 10 miles away from where I live. I’m not one to get upset about the tragedy of other people in the news. I’m not fazed when we lose a celebrity and I can easily detach myself from a reality that isn’t mine. This time though, I sobbed. I knew we had let her down.

The media story told us she had been missing for 3 days after running away from home, following an argument with her parents (Mum and Step-Dad). For those 3 days they were in the news daily – pleading and begging for her safe return. He was particularly moved and emotional on camera, and the community they’d recently moved to live within came out in force to search the streets (just not thoroughly enough).

As soon as her face appeared in the local news as ‘missing school girl’ her last name caught my attention. For me, immediately there was more to this story than suicide. I felt nauseous. This wasn’t flippant arm-chair-psych accusation. Her step-dad is my step-cousin.

My childhood was wonderful, and I used to love spending time my 3 step-cousins. We always had adventures. That makes it sound like Enid Blyton. It wasn’t. We lived in a village, they lived in a town – it was much more fun! By adventures read: played out all day and returned later than we should.

I had always known something wasn’t quite as right or as good for them. Either my Mum shared concerns with us and gave us warnings about keeping safe, or I overheard too much adult conversation.

We’re the same age, and we ended up in the same secondary school. We became close, although he was someone it was increasingly hard to be close to. He had a troubled time at school and I was often called out of my lesson to help calm him. He was ‘popular’ but maybe for the wrong reasons, he was often fighting. He trusted me.

And now whilst writing I’m searching my memory for anything he disclosed that I could have told someone else. I wonder if I would have done anyway, and if he’d have wanted me to. Maybe this is my adult, safeguarding-trained, experienced YP practitioner mind at work. (I’ve deleted the red flags that my fingers were itching to record next to each of the paragraphs above like a risk assessment check-list). When do we stop asking questions that can’t be answered? We let him down.

Later on after various incidents, the kind where you tire of your friend taking advantage of your kindness or generosity for example, time and life meant we drifted apart. Only to be reunited if we were out in town at the same time and literally bumped into each other.

Later on I read that he was in court, for enduring cruelty to animals. Later on still I read that he was in prison for fraud. And then out. We were friends on Facebook. Last year I read his Step-Daughter had suicided after going missing for 3 days.

It went quiet. Then this week I read that the ‘Serious Case Review’ is almost ready to be published. A Serious Case Review “takes place after a child dies or is seriously injured and abuse or neglect is thought to be involved” (NSPCC)

It takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one” (Spotlight, 2015)

I Buy Books

It gets expensive. Although they’re very easy to wrap up for gifts.

Recently I’ve rejoined Derbyshire Libraries. My local one is very small and quaint, and I’ve committed to visiting regularly because I know that if it wasn’t there I’d be disappointed and quick to exclaim “where have all the libraries gone”?!

I have vivid memories of the library providing enchantment and wonder. I desired books before I could read them and would sit cross legged pretending to read the story aloud to my non-existent audience who listened eagerly. I’d spend what felt like hours sifting through the boxes of books lined up, and sometimes wouldn’t even take one out because I was overwhelmed with choice. I’d love that to be available for other children and families too.

Yesterday I spent a few hours working from Nottingham City library, chosen over buying another over-priced coffee for some free wifi. I sat on the 2nd floor and could have easily been distracted into people watching. There were people searching through old records via a machine, doing some photocopying, paying for a colour print, mapping out diagrams from various resources and using their booked hour on the Internet. Reading, researching, learning, discovering, connecting. I overheard a man from Lincoln telling the librarian that today he’d found another piece to his puzzle. Another man I sat near was researching the archives of a local club, and to my right was what I imagine is an essential resource for many a school project:
 …a whole section dedicated to the guy. Only in Nottingham. It wasn’t under ‘local history’.

What a luxury it is to have a laptop, wifi, and a printer (that scans, photocopies, and prints photos, in colour, wirelessly) at home.

What’s your local community library like?

[Late] It’s been a year 

If I’d have known this time last year what I know now…I’m not sure I would have had the courage for 2015. But luckily I didn’t know, and much to my surprise, I did find the courage. So thank you 2015.

Someone said to me today “coaching isn’t always useful as people don’t necessarily know what their goals are”. I publicly apologise to coaching because considering the two topics we’d already covered I didn’t have the energy to stand for you, and so pleasantly explain “but that’s not coaching”. Well it can be. But the best stuff in my experience can emerge from having no coaching goals at all. Goal setting is just one option. I’d argue that you don’t even need to know why you’re there. And even when you do, it might actually end up being a whole different reason in the end. When you pause, reflect and look back. This is actually the same for my masters study. The space and time to think I experienced as a coachee this year has given me so much – I made changes I didn’t know I wanted/could make.

Being the coach has also featured heavily in 2015. Meeting some remarkable people and getting to know them. Learning to honour more difference. Learning to flex and flow within coaching. Learning ease, to soothe my own urgency, to listen with 100% attention and appreciation for the person with me. You have been amazing. You still are.

I was part of making the ‘largest merger of our sector’ a resounding success. I have to say it didn’t feel like that during, and it still feels ongoing, but I’ll take that evaluation as indicative of hard work and dedication paying off. The merger also saw every central services team restructured, apart from L+D. In fact 2016 starts with 2 new L+Ders at Addaction – fantastic! I say L+Ders, because I know they will be.

I’m ending the year in a new house, a new home, with a Christmas tree made of books, and so far two superbly comfy chairs that have been kindly gifted by two very generous friends.  Thank you. 


Ps, I think you would like this photo.

I’d never seen death before.
I didn’t come to see death or dying, I came to see you.
I forgot that I was there to say goodbye.
I said it, but I forgot to do it.
To be there, but then let go.
I just forgot.

4 long hours that came and went in a flash.
Like those flashbulb memories I read about.
When you never forget where you were and exactly what you were doing when something huge happened.
Like Princess Diana, and the Twin Towers.
You were short.
You were quiet.
You were small on things.
Yet you left behind something so big.

I will continue this year, to seek out and experience peaceful surroundings.
And spend time with peaceful people. In the hope that I will absorb this peace into me.
When that happens
I’ll pass it on to the ones you loved.