Please lower your expectations for this issue of “Learning Out Loud”.
Having had cold symptoms most of the week, yesterday I tested positive for Covid. With my wife currently away in Ibiza, dog-sitting and planning her amazing new business, it’s fortunate that Lewis the cat is here to look after me.
I’m pretty rubbish at being ill. Once I had realised that I should take time off work to recover, my next thought was - okay, so what else can I tick off my to do list? Which of these books/articles should I read next? And how will I write my newsletter?
(This reminds me of Jocelyn K. Glei’s question… “Who are you without the doing?”)
With that in mind, I’m doing my utmost to keep this short and low effort - even if that means fewer neat conclusions. I missed an issue two weeks ago due to busyness and feeling rubbish, and I’m determined not to miss two in a row!
In a departure from the normal format, here are eight things that have been on my mind…
Last Friday, I performed on stage (and not behind a drum kit) for the first time since I was in primary school. It was the showcase for my Hoopla Level 3 improv class. I ended up being a bus driver who loved Maltesers, a ship’s first mate who turned out to be Mary Poppins and a very jealous caterpillar!
I’ve enjoyed the course so much that I’ve already signed up to the next one. If you’ve not tried improv, I can thoroughly recommend it. It’s just so much fun and a great way to meet really brilliant people. There are a few Level 1 courses starting soon.
(One of the games we played to warm up was “Eight Things” where someone steps in the middle of the circle and someone else names a theme. The person in the middle then has to name eight things in that category, saying whatever comes to mind, even if it isn’t strictly ‘correct’. Hence the format for this newsletter.)
2. Sunday Assembly
I played drums at Sunday Assembly last weekend and it was a particular fun bunch of songs to play for someone who grew up in the 90s - in particular, playing Man! I Feel like a Woman and Wannabe! A shout out to our amazing singer, Stephanie Pollard, for her renditions of I’m Every Woman and Natural Woman.
Here’s the video - there are two songs at the start, one in the middle and one at the end, but the whole thing is great!
3. The Artist’s Way
Last week I started ‘The Artist’s Way’, a twelve-week course in ‘recovering your creative self’. It’s based on a book by Julia Cameron and included non-negotiable commitments like writing daily ‘Morning Pages’ (three pages of stream of consciousness long hand writing) and going on an ‘Artist’s Date’, as well as weekly reading and tasks.
I first heard about the Artist’s Way through Georgie Nightingall (she writes about her experience of it here) and was delighted when she invited me to join a group she was convening to go through the twelve weeks together. The accountability of the group is very helpful - especially on days when you don’t feel like writing or have a cat sat on your notebook.
I’m not sure what will emerge from this creative exploration but that’s part of what makes me curious about it. I’m sure I’ll have more reflections on the process in future newsletters.
4. Workshops, ahoy!
It’s workshop planning season for me at the moment (Covid-allowing), including some in person (AKA meatspace). I’m re-learning the extra things to think about - how to set up a room, what food to provide and what cables I need to bring to connect to a projector.
I’m looking forward to investing in some nice marker pens, post-its and flipchart paper.
5. Being a Co-chair
Since becoming Co-Chair of RESULTS UK in June 2020, I’ve learnt a lot from the Association of Chairs - from both their written resources and their events. So I was chuffed when they asked Soha and me for an interview on making a success of working as co-chairs. I really think it’s something that could work for more boards - do get in touch if this is something you’re exploring.
As a heads up, RESULTS UK will be recruiting trustees soon. I expect I’ll be able to share details in the next newsletter.
6. Modern Masculinity
Journalist Iman Amrani explores masculinity in a non-judgemental way in this YouTube series for the Guardian. Topics range from Jordan Peterson, meaning and responsibility, advertising, UFC, circumcision, exercise, mental health and work.
The emphasis is on hearing different perspectives rather than coming up with definite conclusions. It definitely got me thinking - like how I associate gyms with a sort of unhealthy, competitive masculinity which puts me off going (I’ve been once in my life!).
7. The Reason Why
I love this podcast about Cornwall. I’m proud of where I’m from (I have a little Cornish flag up in my flat and on my keyring) and at the same time sometimes see it as a bit behind the times.
Seamas Carey dives into the housing crisis, the long history of Cornwall (including oppression from the English), how the Cornish mining industry impacted the homelands of indigenous people and Cornish nationalism. The latest episode is on rural racism and the experiences of black and people of colour in Cornwall, where 99.2% of the population is white (though this data is from the census ten years ago).
As with the Modern Masculinity series, I appreciate the nuance of one identity not being good or bad, and I’m learning about my own heritage. I’m looking forward seeing where this series goes.
8. Quality(ish) TV
Finally, some fun stuff to watch:
James Acaster: Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999 [stream on Vimeo]. Some of the funniest, cleverest standup I’ve ever seen. You can see some highlights on YouTube but I recommend buying it on Vimeo to see the whole thing.
Starstruck - feat. Rose Matafeo [BBC iPlayer]. My wife and I watched the second season in one sitting when this came out. It’s a romantic comedy. Jessie, the main character, makes very frustrating choices against her own interests. Lots of fun.
The Fast and the Farmer-ish [BBC iPlayer]. Teams of young farmers do various tasks using tractors. This is a very silly show but when I was in need of a laugh, it was just what I needed. It also reminded me a lot of people I grew up around in Cornwall. Just don’t think about the carbon footprint.
That’s all for now. If anyone needs me, I’ll be here on my sofa with my cat, snuggled up in a blanket with (yet another) Ursula le Guin book or watching the Six Nations.