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Take it easy

Another week passes and we slowly drift another week closer to a well-earned half term break. At this stage we still presume that it will be a one week break but the notion of a ‘circuit breaker’ is gaining more traction across the region. For now, we should plan for just one week away from school and college.

And when I say ‘plan for’ I do mean that all staff, pupils, students and families need to ensure that, if they are not working that last week of October, plan to guarantee a break. Make sure that you do, over the next couple of days and into early next week, everything that you can do to guarantee that you get a sustained break; not just from school or college, as a building, but from the work itself. During that half term make sure that you turn off your notifications, don’t look at emails and plan for the return in November now; allowing all to return in November without having a couple of days of stress or anxiety before your return, with the need to get things ordered and organised hanging over your heads.

The changing national and local guidance and restrictions, as a consequence of the changing nature of the current crisis, has reminded me of some of those things that we all focused on earlier on in the year.

I have been taken this year by our collective / national slowing – of the lives that we live. Many of us have engaged in / with activities, arts and/or pastimes which enforce upon us a slowing down. Too much in our modern 21st century is framed by an increasingly rapid pace to life. We need our information and data instantly. We get our ‘kicks’ from the immediate. We dash from task to task, activity to activity. We demand it now. However, during the spring and summer of this year many of us re-learnt the art of breathing and, consequently, we slowed our lives down, reduced our stress and maintained a greater work / life equilibrium.

That equilibrium rests with the individual. The external factors of work, family, COVID can be balanced, should we choose or learn to own our destinies, shape our lifestyles and control that which we can control – without overly worrying about that which is beyond our control. I know so many who, over the months, have learnt not to dive into the whirlpool of despair. They have controlled their news intake. They have focused on the small things. They have re-learnt slow.

There won’t be many things, when this year has passed, which will bring us a sense of warmth and positivity, but I do hope that we can all remember, hold onto and continue to engage with a slower lifestyle. Some of you will have taken to baking – it comes and goes with me, recently there has been a stab at Rocky Roads and then some chocolate brownies (this week’s Bake Off inspired). Some of you will have taken time to watch the birds in the garden – bird table bought and positioned for optimal viewing (if only I could control the squirrels). Some of you will have taken to walking, rather than driving or running – sorry I can’t claim to have given up the running.

In this vein there is a group of people, led by geographer Daniel Raven-Ellison, who are looking to create a new map showing the best walking routes around the country. Daniel describes this as a slow map, giving people the tools and the opportunity to walk within and beyond our towns and cities. Linking towns with villages, villages with hamlets and hamlets back to our towns and cities again. Now that’s something I would recommend and do welcome. The 700 volunteers, recruited doing the national lockdown, are plotting the best routes between Britain’s towns and cities, identifying 7,000 ‘slow routes’ for anyone who wants to avoid cars or public transport on a longer journey. Walking in our towns or in the countryside should allow us to slow our lives and it just might create a calmness within ourselves.

 ‘Let thy step be slow and steady, that thou stumble not.’ Tokugawa Ieyasu

‘Slow and steady wins the race.’ Robert Lloyd

As the half term holiday is now on the horizon and after you have planned your work for this week and the return week of November, take some time to think about how you might slow your life, when that break comes. Whatever the activity, whatever you choose to do, you’ve earned the right to take the pace out of your lives.