At school if I’d self-assessed and averaged out my grades I am pretty sure I’d have been a stock standard Grade ‘B’ student. I’d maybe reach an ‘A’ for the odd English piece; in French and Geography I was more ‘C’, but overall ‘B’ would be my forte. Better than fine or satisfactory – we all know what they mean – but not reaching the excellence of an ‘A’. Nothing has really changed, a 2.1 in my first degree at Essex, (though I’m sure firsts were scarcer in those days), and good solid merits in my later Masters’ degrees at the University of East Anglia and Nottingham and librarian diploma.
I think I know exactly why this is the case. Once I am sure that something is ‘good’ i.e a ‘B’, I can’t be bothered to do anymore work on it. I am a settler at good enough. In my life there hasn’t been any writing twice the word count allowed, enabling pruning and editing until the assignment is perfect. For me, once I’ve got enough words and it makes something like sense then that will do!
Transferring School Grades to Life
I’ve realised I apply the same attitude and approach to many parts of my life, especially things I have to do. Take housework, for example. In England I do keep things tidy and reasonably dust free, but I definitely wouldn’t achieve an ‘A’ grade for anything household related. With all house-y, and D.I.Y stuff I know what an ‘A’ looks like (my mum’s house) and an A* (my brother’s house!) but I just can’t be bothered to achieve such excellence myself. To be honest I’d only get a ‘B’ if the examiner was feeling generous! I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I have sunk so low that I have been known to use socks to dust the skirting boards. You might think that’s not so bad but I’ve been wearing them at the time!
Now I’ve started thinking about it there are loads of examples of my Grade ‘B’ approach to life. In fact it feels like I can’t escape it. This blog, is full of glitches, broken links and the like, preventing Google from even hardly recognising it, yet I just can’t seem to muster up enough umph to get it fixed up. We are back on the road to Scotland, this time heading to Fort William, (the first stop on our North Coast 500’ road trip in Lazarus the Landrover), though my holiday preparation has only reached ‘B-‘ grade. I bought the snacks, cooled the freezer cube thingies, but couldn’t be bothered to actually make sandwiches for the journey ahead of time. I decided we could make them en route whilst driving – which, to my detriment, I’m learning is actually easier said than done.
Even my beloved swimming – my way of maintaining a good enough level of fitness fits a grade ‘B’ rubric. I’ve made the effort to progress beyond, what I call, chinny swimmer, and I’m told I’m not too bad at all at freestyle now, but I can’t put the effort in to really master a decent breaststroke kick. Must do better!
When I was in the library I put ‘A’ effort into making it a fun environment and encouraging kids to love books. I was an ‘A-’ in creating a great collection for the whole school and parent community, (I like to think I know my books reasonably well), but I was only a C- in really embracing digital technology - and as for truly getting to grips with Dewey… I just couldn’t be bothered. I hope I was ‘A’ in developing a strong team, but in learning how to catalogue and classify books I was ‘D-’. So overall I guess at work I came out a ‘B’. No surprise eh!
Video courtesy of Bangkok Patana School Library. a great display we put together in January 2018 around an 'Under the Sea' theme, when promoting the enviornmental books of visiting author Gail Clarke.
It is interesting to see what I have invested an ‘A grade’ level of effort into. My family of course is top of the list, but I’m not sure I am mentally prepared enough to start grading my input into developing these complex relationships One thing I do know is they would probably give me an ‘A’ for worrying and nagging, but I’m not sure that is such a good thing!
The reality is that it seems that outside the personal stuff of family and friends there really isn’t much else that I seem to think is worth accomplishing beyond a ‘B’ in. Perhaps if I view my Grade ‘B’ achievement sympathetically I can justify it with the claim that I know what really matters or that I’m impatient to fit in as an infinite amount of stuff into a finite amount of time so don’t have time to be a perfectionist. I think, though, on both counts that’s probably me just letting myself off the hook!
One thing that I think I am quite good at is inspiring others to aim to achieve higher and being better than I am myself. I kind of expect it and it brings me pleasure that it is often the case. My kids have a better work ethic than me and are both kinder and more forgiving than me. When I was in the library, members of my team were phenomenally good at what they did, always striving for excellence. Perhaps I sewed some of the seeds but they followed through and paid attention to detail in getting things done properly. My housekeeper in Bangkok might smile ruefully at my self-analysis, at recognising excellence and desiring it in others. I certainly exact high standards from her in cleaning, washing and cooking-she doesn’t let me down!
I guess it’s good that at least I’ve recognised a lifelong Grade ‘B’ accomplishment pattern. It’s too late to change what’s been so I will have to be content to have been ‘good’ enough. Perhaps what I have been grade ‘A’ in is at cajoling, persuading and motivating others. The issue is though, that these days, the only person l have to cajole, persuade and motivate is myself. It would be great though to have a passion to be a grade ‘A’ in something and really go for it. Just right now, I’m just not quite sure what that something might be. I can't spend my whole life touring Scotland in the landrover - any other ideas?
The last (I promise) in the ‘here’ or ‘there’ saga!
I was driving through the village today, on the way to Scunthorpe to get Betsy a new bank account set up for university, when she asked the question, “Mum if you hadn’t gone to university do you think you would have always lived in Broughton or somewhere close by?” My answer was “I doubt it” to which Betsy asked “Why not? Hmmm… good question. When I stop to think it doesn’t really make sense to not have stayed local. It seems that I’m a bit Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde!
Reasons to Live Locally
When I think about my own personality these are all reasons I might have expected to have stayed close to home; they are criteria I’m happy to adhere to. If I am such a ‘localite’ and it seems, that as a lover of non-wild, steady-eddy routine, I am, I wonder why I have chosen to live 6000 miles away from home in Bangkok for 17 years and prior to that 4000 miles away from home in Tanzania for 5 years. It just doesn’t make sense!
It seems I’ve managed this by turning Bangkok into Broughton and emulating the same life I would have done if I’d stayed. For example, family is very important to me and has always been a massive pull back to Broughton. In addition, I’m not very wild and like a routine (In Bangkok, I always shop in Tops supermarket for example); we have found an area we like to live in, (the oft mentioned Thana City); and stick there. We tend to go to the same cinema (Mega Bangna Cinema complex) or Mahidol University for Saturday concerts by the Thai Philharmonic. This regularity further fulfils the ‘reasons to stay local’ criteria and also we have a maximum of four or five places we tend to eat. The school, the athletes group and my book club basically is my community and I have learned what is on offer for me work wise in Bangkok (Not a lot when flexibility is key!)
I gave Betsy’s question some further thought. When I went to university my mum thought I’d only last a couple of weeks. Allegedly, and I’m not sure this is true, I would do anything to avoid speaking to shop assistants or strangers or anything of that ilk up to being about 25! (Fair enough really as typical introvert behaviour in my view!) I don’t think, though, it ever crossed my own mind to not stick uni out. I think I maybe got the occasional twinge for the familiarity of Scunthorpe’s shops and the treats it afforded, (the High Street was much better then), but nothing major happened. I wasn’t terribly homesick or anything like that. After uni and several months of temping work, I, along with Saint Mick (who was just Mick then and had mainly brown hair not grey – me too, come to that) backpacked extensively in Asia and Australasia. It was probably then that the idea of living and working abroad started to become attractive to me. Perhaps in my youth I must have been a bit more of a risk-taker than I realised.
But as a fifty something mum and wife, I’ve shown there is nothing very wild about our expat lifestyle!
Living abroad means:
And eventually if you stay somewhere a while, you embrace this ‘same/same but different’ as normal. Living an expat life meets the needs of both my Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde sides!
As I worked through the conundrum posed by Betsy I realised that I am easily restless and the ‘what’s it all about’ question is never far from the surface. Perhaps it’s an expat gene that we teachers abroad all have. Those with vaguely itchy feet wondering what else is ‘on offer’ can keep searching whilst simultaneously holding down well paid jobs and bringing up regular families and turn anywhere into a place that is both ‘same/same and different to home. The desire for adventure, sits alongside routine and ordinariness, though thankfully backpacking can be replaced with nice hotels and holidays in exciting neighbouring countries. It perhaps sounds exotic to tour South East Asia, but no more so than our planned trip to Scotland later this month – same/same but different.
Lately, being back in Broughton has made me think once again about the paths that life has taken me on. I have opted to return ‘’home’ and be part of village life at the minute and it’s making me realise how I’ve never really left it. I guess it is back to the idea of it not being the place but the person that creates a sense of belonging. Right now I’m living locally, and doing the ordinary comfy stuff as regularly as I have ever done, and mid August I’ll just as easily slip back into my Bangkok routine.
Reading this back I’m not sure I’ve got to grips with Betsy’s question at all. What I’d like to claim is that although I’ve abroad for twenty plus years I’ve actually stayed local. I wonder though, is that possible? What do you think?
My dad's had a bit of time of it this last year with his health, so we've been vey grateful to have the NHS to draw upon. I'm a huge advocate for nursing staff particulary and feel they are incredibly underpaid and undervalued by our government. We have had some amazing care and attention given to us so because of this I've been loathe to criticize the NHS.. thus far.... We've also had some pretty rubbish experiences though and every now and then it is very hard not to have a sense of humour crisis about some of the things that have happened to us. However, rather than just write a long (and it would be long) list of 'issues', instead I'll sum up in a couple of paragraphs or what I'd do if I ran the NHS!
Actually that's probably not as insignficant and facetious as it sounds. I do feel that the NHS has reached such a crisis point of probable underfunding and definite understaffing in some areas, (along with very poor deployment of staff in others), that patients very often feel that they are a nuisance and that is at least in part created from the vibe they get from the people attending to them. Many staff members are legitimately at the end of their tether, so consequently when using the service the patient senses that the staff are 'hard done by'. There's no wonder many older people don't want to 'bother their doctors'. Obviously most staff are kind, caring, down to earth, we get it and of course you should fight your corner for your family type of people, but I've also lately encountered a few of the othes who unconsiciously emit the negative vibe! There's the:
But they're relatively few and far bewteen and are countered by the:
Anyway, I''ve wittered on enough. For anyone who knows me, I guess it makes a change from listening to me spout about what I'd do if I was in charge of education! (By the way, I know my comments are naive and it's not really that easy to fix the greatest free medical service in the world, but I'm trying to fulfil my June challenge of not overworrying and analysing!) But just to finish . did I mention that THERE IS A HUGE MAJORITY OF WONDERFUL HEALTH CARE WORKERS WHO DO WONDERFUL WORK in the NHS. (Bother, think I've just failed my June challenge!) I do like to be fair though. If I did rule the NHS I would definitely give 'those wonderfully caring and nurting vocational types' a 100% payrise. I'm sure the Bankers' bonsues would cover it! Is the NHS Nifty, Healing and Successful? Well I'd like to think it would be if I ruled the world!
I’ve set myself a challenge, it’s nothing to do with diets or exercise or quantities of books devoured. … read on and see if you’d care to join me.
I was talking to some friends the other day and we unearthed a very similar pattern of behaviour amongst us. It came as a surprise that we have set of similar core traits in how we conduct ourselves, as my perception of our characters is that we are all quite different. Consequently, I wouldn’t have expected it. To a greater or lesser extent we all had the following in common:
We all fight this instinct and do make strong decisions. We stick to our guns and lead effectively in both our professional and personal lives, but it comes at some personal cost.
I feel like I have ‘superpowers’ in these traits and can take them to extremes. If I know I’ve upset someone and I’m in the wrong (admittedly seldom-kidding!) I can really ‘overdo’ making amends and live the regret for ages. Even when I’m sure that I am right I still find any kind of conflict upsetting. Over, the years, I’ve fretted over how I can choose to not follow someone’s advice or seem ungrateful for it without giving offence to them. In addtion, I’ve spent way too much of my professional life circumventing conflict and wording tactful emails to reach a desired goal. I guess that could be seen as a positive, but it would be so much easier to just be direct.
I have been pondering if these are traits more likely to be found in women of my age than men? Or I wonder if similar traits are always likely to be found amongst a group of friends because similar types flock together? What do you think ?
I think that I think many women of my generation tend to feel this way because as girls we were taught to be polite and amenable. This behaviour is praised, so even though I’m a fully fledged 50 year old it is hard to make waves. I will, but I don’t like to do so, Then, because of this, for many of us our first reaction is to be a ‘pleaser’. Also, perhaps part and parcel of being amenable and a pleaser is presenting as relaxed and chilled and easy going. Therefore it is easy to defer to someone presenting a strong personality.
This all bothers me. I don't want to confirm so neatly to generational expections! so I’ve decided it is a good time to fight the ‘pleaser within and put away my paper-thin skin. As such these are my June targets:
(As an aside, I just shared the content of this blog post with Saint Mick. His response was "so in other words you’re going to be a bloke for a month!")
I'll choose to ignore that, it sounded facetious and the first productive thing I will go do is get a cup of coffee and a piece of carrot cake. This is going to be tough for me - the challenge, not eating the carrot cake, that will be easy!
If you are a pleaser too do you care to join me…?
Last night I had the most horrible dream. The type of dream that isn’t at all subtle and brings all your worries to the surface. It actually woke me up crying, which is really weird as I’m not much of a crier! I can’t say that I’m not prone to the odd tantrum and door slamming episode when I’m not getting my own way, but most of the time, I and the rest of my family have a more ‘British stiff upper lip, let’s get on with things the best we can’ approach to life.
Why do we cry?
I think when I do resort to tears it is more likely to be through frustration than anything else. They, whoever they are, say women at work must be professional and never cry, however it isn’t always possible to rein in emotions. I remember a couple of years ago feeling so frustrated that a very poorly colleague and friend of mine wasn’t getting a fair deal at work. Ironically it was only when angry tears leaked out that things started to happen to improve her situation. It seems tears can be powerful. Whilst I am opposed to pretty much everything Theresa May stands for, I still felt sorry for her as she struggled to contain her emotions as she stood outside Number 10 the other day. Tears also seem to be a trigger for sympathy and empathy.
Revealing our prejudices
Reflecting on how we respond to tears is I think, quite revealing, though having just done so, I’ve realised it doesn’t necessarily show us in the best of lights. For me, I think it has, once again made me realise just what a sexist feminist I actually am! Recently I have:
A lot of our response to tears is probably at an unconscious level, but I wonder how many of us can actually ‘turn on the tears’ or use them to our advantage. I wouldn’t say I’m good at this, but there have been occasions, even recently when I’ve known crying will lessen the negative consequences of a situation. For example, when I recently crashed the car the other driver was far more sympathetic than he might have been once he saw a middle aged woman with a wobbly lip emerge from the other vehicle! I’ve got a feeling that women do manipulate tears far more than men because it is seen as acceptable to do so. I’m trying to figure out what the parallel for men is.
Crying is a good thing
We mustn’t forget the good side to tears:
The emphasis of young people on improving mental health and encouraging boys and girls to cry from a young age has got to be a positive. I wonder though if all teachers and parents have really caught up with this concept. I very much suspect in homes and classrooms across the world right now boys are being tussled out of their tears with rough play as girls are being cuddled out of theirs. I might be wrong, of course, but it is interesting to consider how we do treat young children differently. This study shows how gender stereotyping in managing tears starts at as young as three years old.
There is nothing better than a cathartic cry at a good book and who can deny the benefits of a proud mum’s tears at a school concert. I’ve got a feeling my own kids might actually judge my level of pride at their success on whether the waterworks get turned on or not. Betsy asked me if I cried at her IB graduation and seemed slightly perturbed that I did not! Looking at language for a moment, what an interesting phrase ‘turning on the water works is. I can’t quite figure out if it is negative or not.
I recently felt pretty close to tears when a very successful blogger and influencer, Middle Aged Mamma, mentioned me in her own blog. Check it out here. I’m not sure if my tears would have been 50-something hormone driven, or just sheer gratitude led. As there was no one else there around I guess I can’t be accused of trying to manipulate my audience!
Anyway, next time you’re driven to tears, or perhaps after they’ve dried up, why not take a moment to analyse what they reveal about yourself. The result might just suprise you!