Toby and Sam

[Written 10 years ago when my first dog Toby died. We got him when I was 8 years old]

Once upon a spring time, 3 puppies we did find
But we could only keep 2, so 1 we left behind
The puppies they came from a farm, unwanted by their mum
But we had other things in mind, like lots of puppy fun!

The 1st puppy was brave enough to walk up to our feet
With optimistic puppy eyes, we couldn’t wait to meet!
The 3rd one was much quieter, and sat inside his pen
Appearing shy and nervous, little did we know then!
That 1st one came out gamboling, just like a little lamb
Kim took one look; she loved that pup, and chose to name him Sam!
The 3rd one he looked smaller, the opposite of Moby (the whale)
Jo swept him up into her arms, and chose to name him Toby!

So back at Heage the work began to build the perfect home
With a cosy bed and lots of space for these new pups to roam
Two weeks later the time had come to go and pick them up
Two little girls sat in the car, each cuddling a pup!

In their element they were, the girls just looked so glad
As were the pups when they came home and explored their new pad
A little smelly and grubby, they both needed a bath
Two wet puppies shaking about, you couldn’t help but laugh
And as they settled down to rest, looking cuter than can be,
The fell asleep, up in a heap, content and blissfully

On looking closer it appeared, right in front of our nose
That Sammy had white slippers on! And Toby had white toes!

We taught them how to sit and stay, and fetch and come and heal!
And how to be good mannered, so food they wouldn’t steal
We took them over hill and dale, in streams and to the woods!
“A dog’s life” you might look and say – they certainly had it good!

One day we met a farmer, whilst walking down a path,
In awe he wanted to keep them, with pride how we did laugh!
One day we took them both, to a local fun dog show,

They came joint firsts (best rescue and matching pair), their smiles they did glow!

Sammy liked to fetch his ball, again, again, again!
Whilst Toby liked to wander, playing his own sniffing game!
Their favourite place – can you guess? The smells there are so good!
And fetching sticks out of the pond – yes! It’s Ambergate Wood!

Well they’ve lived in Heage, were loved by all, and then they conquered Stonebroom,
And then retired to Bargate, where there is lots of room
There you will find Sammy, his white slippers on show!
As gentle soft and gentle as ever, that beautiful face you know!

But if you’re looking for Toby, you’ll have to close your eyes,
Cuz he’s now running on the farm, and basking beneath blue skies!

[can’t find the bit written when Sam also died a few month later]


It’s Time To Go

How do I even begin to think about saying goodbye to an organisation that I’ve worked at for 10 years?

I remember very clearly sitting in a ‘careers talk’ as a first year Psych student listening to someone from Addaction and deciding ‘thats where I want to work’. Two years later I attended some Addaction training and watching the trainer thought ‘I want to do that’.

5 years ago I became Addaction’s Learning and Development Manager.



People don’t work within addiction (and mental health) treatment for the salary – it takes something extra; an extra stretch of empathy. The ability to connect and cross bridges when someone is completely different to you, and engaging in behaviour you may not think it ok. Everyday. Thats challenging.

For example… Imagine you are fundraising for a charity. You have one week to raise £1000 via donations. You have as many contacts as you could possibly desire. How long do you think it would take to raise money for a charity supporting people addicted to drugs? Compared to another charity.

If I gave you one pound, to put in a charity box of your choice: 1. Animal rescue 2. Children at risk 3. Cancer research 4. Elderly Care 5. Addiction Treatment – where would your one pound go? If I stood in your local high street with those 5 boxes, which one would be most and least full at the ens of the day?

THIS organisation… working in a culture and change focused role… so aligned, so purposeful. You can’t leave that overnight. You have to slowly and carefully extract yourself.

What’s me? What’s Addaction? Am I part of Addaction, or is Addaction part of me? As I leave, where is the missing piece.

I finished the Shindig series (with Julie Drybrough @fuchsia_blue in Manchester) in November this year and we did a timeline. My post-it stuck to the wall at the future part was blank. The 26th Jan 2018 will be my last day as Learning and Development Manager at Addaction UK. I’m excited and scared about that, in equal measure.

So this blog is for you Addaction:

The top 10 things I’ve learnt… in my 10 years at Addaction

  1. Addiction follows the same psychological principles as learning. We can learn, we can unlearn, we can intentionally and unintentionally learn new behaviours and thinking.
  2. Behaviour change on mass, across a whole organisation, takes behaviour change multiple-times on a individual level. People, their relationships and the system and culture that creates are the organisation.
  3. Dependency on a substance like alcohol, coke, cannabis, heroin, doesn’t occur because of a personality trait (although I know you like that one), low morals, genetics, or because your mum/dad/uncle/brother used it (another simple one: social learning) – dependence occurs because the substance fulfils a function. It provides something needed to function. And in the absence of a better of alternative, it becomes the best/quickest/most reliable solution. We build up a tolerance and need more of the substance to get the same effect; to get the function fulfilled. Every human has basic needs (I admire Maslow and all other humanistic psychologists who knew their shit years ago, beyond behaviourism + psychodynamics – why have we ignored it for so long?)
  4. Nice people take drugs (to quote, and addiction can make people behave horribly
  5. Empathy is the most powerful of all human skills and the capacity for this can be grown and learnt. AND apparently, we can fake it if we know what the behaviours are that communicate that we are being empathic with someone. (Apols – cant find reference)
  6. For every behaviour there is a reason. Not an excuse.
  7. Solution Focused Brief Approaches (founded by deShazer) are the foundation of contemporary approaches to organisational developent: appreciative inquiry, positive critique, strength focused leadership, skills coaching. Solution focused does not mean getting to a solution as quickly as possible. Its means a shift in thinking to notice strengths first, from looking for examples of excellent in performance to story-tell and build upon, to responding only positive behaviours in order to encourage/nudge more of that.
  8. The therapeutic treatment for addiction under the term Psychosocial Interventions, is a top class coaching approach to skills development and behaviour change. People are people.
  9. As Siobhan Sheridan (@siobhanHRSheri) powerfully reminds us here … there is more than one version of the world, if you choose to see it. Every street has different dimensions and layers. You are never far away from ‘that would never happen to me’
  10. And the hardest learning of all… Work is work. Its something you do, not a place you go to, and not the person you are. You just bring the latter to it. Work will come and it will go, and I wont let it be the main source of my self-esteem. Self-exploitation in charities is easily done: pushing yourself to work longer/harder because its for a good cause, and they matter more than you – is not healthy. No matter how many evenings and weekends I spend working, the job will never be done. Play! And combine the two at every opportunity!

No Title

You light up another cigarette and I, pour the wine

Its 4 o’clock in the morning and it’s starting to get light

And i’m right where I wana be; loosing track of time

And I wish that it was still, last night

This is romance to me.

A place I knew early on that I could escape to. Alcohol. Late nights into early mornings. This was my ‘let go of everything’ place. Its never quite been the same as it was then – i never quite let go the same as I did. As I could. Is it responsibility? Consequences? Wisdom? More choice and access to other options?

I like romance too.

And I wonder what my children will/would think.

I think I remember wishing my mum wouldn’t dream. Wishing she was satiated and content so that I could feel sure she wasn’t going anywhere. I used to have recurring dream in a carpark where my sister and I would be chasing her – calling her – and she was laughing and running away, somewhat detached. And she continued to run. Now I see.

I wont run.

I will keep my eyes open.

And I will breathe.

She For She

There is something magical about a group of women, together, doing something side by side. Like singing in a female choir, playing netball, and running a 10k. 
On the 27th January I woke up and had to run. I ran because I was angry, and I couldn’t think of anything else to do. I expected my arthritic knees to stop me, but on 9th July I ran my first ever 10k. Two laps rounds a 5k track, which meant midway high fives from my cheerers whilst I breathlessly told them I was dying. 80+ women of all shapes and sizes ran together. In teams, on their own, holding hands. They were amazing.

The ones I admired the most were…

– the 63 year old water giver-outer-er who I stood with near to the home stretch. She raced last years event and subsequently had a heart attack, preventing her from wanting to risk the race this year. 

– my boyfriend’s 11year-old daughter who stood near the finish line and insisted on cheering everyone on by name (our name’s were printed with our race numbers). Even after we had stood there 30mins after I’d finish the race she made sure that every single Claire and Karen got a cheer. Apparently they were the most common names so if she couldn’t read the names quickly enough she just shouted those.

– the lady who I ended up pacing with for a chunk of the race, without speaking, who then encouraged me to continue with her when I stopped for a little walk (gasping for air in the baking heat and finally deciding that my superpower would teleportation). Who then shared her running story with me.

– the lady who I ended up walking next to at the start of the last km who put an end to my little rest with “come on, let’s shuffle” 

– my sister Kim, who also ran her first 10k and helped me with pre-race psychological training: unleashing my chimp.

If you’ve come across the Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters you’ll know about your own internal Chimp. The part of your brain that overrides your behaviours when significant emotions are triggered, resulting in a reaction, rather than a response. The bit we wish we could turned off when it’s unruley or irrational. I realised I’d been struggling a lot with my Chimp recently after speaking to Kim.

Kim’s Chimp is called Cheryl (from Neighbours, loud, obnoxious, big hair, bright blouse). Apparently, she just asked what her name was one day and that was the response. They have regular dialogue when Cheryl is misbehaving. Kim listens to Cheryl. Self-accepting. Patient. Kind. 

My Chimp is called Frannie. She is a highly strung princess with the potential to be awful. She is angry at you, at the world, at everything. And so we decided that seeing as she was so keen to be around I’d let her take my race. When I got tired, I’d fuel up Frannie and run the sh*t out of her. She’d been a horse kicking at the stable door and I decided I’d let her run.

Only, it turns out that you can’t run angry. That the more I thought about and provoked Frannie the more I loved her, and the more I smiled until I was running along with a huge smile on my face not caring how daft/red/goofy I looked. 

None-else cared either. I even managed to day-dream about holidays. 

– Frannie. My beautiful chimp. 

Are You Done?

Emotional Intelligence isn’t the hot topic anymore. It’s no longer the new shiny thing that everyone wants a piece of. It’s not dominating my Twitter feed or featuring in the title of every other article on Linked In.

Have you stopped talking about it?

When you learnt about EQ did you do a self-assessment and recognise your strengths were good enough and leave it there? Did you realise that you have some? That Emotional Intelligence is not a fixed personality trait and we all have the capacity to harness our emotions and develop our EQ, and then feel assured that you’ll be ok. Did you realise that ‘oh I do that anyway, I just didn’t know that was the term for it’. You’re an emotionally intelligent leader – boom. I wonder if you learnt about your competencies in EQ, owned them, then took them for granted. 

Are you done?

I don’t want to talk about EQ either, I want to talk about Emotional Labour. I want to talk about the cognitive work. I want to hear about the practice and the stuff you do that builds, grows and sustains EQ. The stuff you do that rebuilds your capacity for empathy, your tolerance for others, your compassion, when it gets depleted. The restorative work.

When Maslow (once a humanist…) theorised about self-actualisation do you think he intended to inspire us to climb the pyramid and rest there at the top enjoying that state. Or was the intended learning to aspire and to fulfil our needs to motivate us to reach a state where self-actualising is possible. Then reach for it again. And again. And to recognise that these needs are always going to be there, and are always going to require our attention first.

Is the path to enlightenment about getting to the end of the path to reach that esoteric state and status. Of being at one with ourselves and the world. And everything thriving for that. Or is it the path.

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the EQ Summit where Ruby Wax shared her story with wit and straightforwardness that evoked intrigue to know more. She spoke fast with edge and offered a rollercoaster of depth and humour. My post-event-drinking-buddy of choice would have been Ruby. Her interest in her own mental health and general fascination with people and how they tick motivated her to study Psychology at college (US). Then later after spending much time and money procuring help from psychiatric professionals she sough more understaning and more answers leading her to a Neuroscience Professor at Oxford (UK) of whom she asked straight questions in search of straight answers. Desperate to learn what was happening in the intricacies of her own synapses that caused the spirals of overwhelming thinking that she felt unable to master. The answer wasn’t simple, or straightforward: ‘if you want to understand that you need to take a Masters at Oxford’. And so she did. Today she stands and talks about Mindfulness. The everyday practice of Mindfulness. The conversation today is not her academia, the neuroscience relations that play out in our brain cells, nor her competencies and skills – its how, and what, and practice. The practice of developing and maintaining EQ for a better quality of life for self and others around you. And Mindfulness is one of those practices. And she stole my heart because she unreservedly demonstrated the importance between the two: academia and practice. How one is nothing without the other. Each strengthening the mind to enhance engagement and benefit from the other. Beautiful.

Practising Yoga is called yoga practice because its… practise. The end is not the headstand. Running is not about the finish line. Its about the internal conversation when you think you can’t go anymore. The more I learn about EQ the more I realise it’s all the good stuff we do thats enables mastery and self-leadership – especially when thats hard. I’m not done.

This is wild writing…

Last week I attend the first Facilitation Shindig in the series being hosted by Julie Drybrough (@fuschiablue). We, a small group of dedicated Facilitators seeking to be better, to grow, to learn about who we are in that space,  gathered together in MadLab, Edge Street, Manchester.

We focused on Reflective Practice, something I blogged about previously – how we use, what we do, what it means, the value, the challenges. And then we tried out Wild Writing. Julie introduce the concept via the philosophy of Natalie Goldberg and explained the rules:

  1. Don’t stop or edit
  2. Keep your hand moving
  3. Don’t worry about spelling of grammar
  4. Give it gusto – go for the jugular
  5. Lose control

Here goes…

Writing has kept me going. Has let me empty my head of all the stuff – yes stuff. I can’t think of a better word because it’s been so stuffy and blocked up in there to the point where I can’t seem to empty it or get any peace and this from a girl who’s yoga-ed regularly for the last 13 years. It got full up. Stuffed full of things that don’t need to be in there and so I wrote and wrote and wrote the craziness down onto pages and pages and pages. Not for you or anyone else to read but for the space for mind-dump for the freedom from the thoughts that haunted and circled like vultures feasting on a moments peace. Pause and they swoop with elegance and precision that encourages you to honour and consider their all consuming seductive nature – you actually have no choice. (Oh but you do! You do have a choice! You always have a choice!) And I want to write so badly. Something coherent. Something with structure. Something with content that is of some value to you, or to me. But all I have is this. And wild writing so fast and without a pause so that I can come back. I am back, and will be more back, and I will write again. I will always write.

You People ❤️

Sometimes, if you’re really unlucky surreal things happen. But they’re actually real because they’re actually happening. To you, not somebody else.

But what has surprised me the most over the past few months is the overwhelming amount of love from you. At a time when I didn’t actually realise you were there. That all that love was available without costing me anything. I never knew that at my darkest, when I couldn’t access my self-compassion or strength, you would be there to access it for me, reminding me it was still there, waiting.

Your love has blown me away whilst quite literally holding me down and keeping me up. Each day, and each week, more conversations, cups of tea, and you continue to amaze me with your patience and kindness whilst I had nothing to give. When you know that’s not my style. 

Thank you. For those hugs that last longer than 5 seconds, for your arms around me, for getting drunk with me, for hanging with me after, for talking, for just sitting, for laughing, for cooking for me, for the walks, for the laughter, for getting me ‘dressed up and out’, for  watching rubbish films and shit TV, for a flask of tea, for reflexology, for listening, for not judging, for trusting, for believing in me, for knowing me, for looking at me like you always have and not differently, for aromatherapy, for a poetry book. 

I will be forever grateful and appreciative of you. And I somehow hope the path we tread and how we chose to be with and for others boomerangs right back.