Worker or Shirker?

I was raised on the ‘protestant work ethic’, even though my dad was a Catholic.  To be fair, he championed work and play in equal measure.  A union man and a sportsman – at one time professional – he certainly worked and played hard himself.  It wasn’t a bad philosophy, as far as upbringing goes, but my dad was, and still is, ultra-competitive.

I don’t think of myself as being competitive.  I certainly don’t have a ‘killer instinct’ that wants to win at any price, but I can be a bit hyper, always trying to do too much.  I don’t do boredom as there’s always way too much to do.  I can be impatient, and rarely settle to one thing.  I was never going to excel at one particular skill.  I was, and still am, always too keen to move onto the next thing, whatever that may be . That transferred into my work life too.

Although routine and repetition is a necessary part of any job, and indeed, an inescapable part of life, I have never accepted that you have to do things you hate, especially where work is concerned.  That was not in my dad’s philosophy.  Doing things you didn’t like built character.  In some respects I’m sure he was right.

When I was a baby I was taken weekly to the hospital for injections to calm me down.  I don’t know what was in the injections or why the medical fraternity deemed it necessary to calm an infant down.  Apparently I didn’t sleep much, or well.  My parents didn’t enquire as to the ‘why’s and wherefore’s’ they simply accepted that doctors knew best and let them get on with it.  I suspect I might have been labelled with ADHD if it were now.  I’m not claiming I have ADHD, or more likely ADD, but I’m still no closer to settling.

Perhaps all of this is why patience, and putting up with nonsense, is not my strong suit.  Until it comes to people.  When I gave up my ‘career’ job at 40, and re-trained as an advocacy worker, I discovered that passion and purpose can keep me motivated, whatever labels or temperament I may, or may not, possess.

If I’m doing something I’m passionate about – writing, reading, cooking, photography, working to give people a voice – I can pass the time without stopping for food or ever looking at the clock.  It’s a full-speed-tilt-boogie approach with nothing held back or moderated.  It lacks staying power, however. I tire. I always want to be onto the next thing.

It’s not that I don’t give things my all.  I do.  I really go for it.  I try to give my best, to get things right.  And sometimes I simply try to get things done because I know my interest is waning and I loathe adding something else to my list of unfinished tasks.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a quitter, and I’ve never shunned a days’ work in my life. I’ve worked in Boots, in a hairdressers, a factory, for a tour operator, in a library and various other employment settings.  One organisation for 10 years (my record) but the compelling factor has been change, moving on.  I was never going to get my gold watch at 65.  And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.  For all my poor qualities and inadequacies, being unable to stick to one thing has given me skills and experiences I would otherwise have missed.

People learn differently, experience the world differently.  There should be enough room for everyone to find their place, and feel valued, whatever and however they choose to be employed. Because someone doesn’t stick at one thing doesn’t make them a shirker.


Feel free to discuss!


Picture ‘Scots fisher Folk’ drawn with pen and pencil Samuel G Green DD
from the British Library’s Mechanical Curator Collection.

Outdoor Girl


Watership Down 58 miles from London
Findhorn 600 miles from London

I was born and raised in the suburbs of London.  It was Surrey then and is South West London now, less than a dozen miles from the city centre.  We lived on a busy main road in Park Villas, salubriously titled in honour of the local authority recreation ground which our long skinny garden backed on to, and which we called ‘the rec’.

As kids we spent hours in the rec, playing in the playground, kicking a ball about, playing mini golf or messing about with a racket and variously annoying the park keeper. If we weren’t in the rec, we were in the garden, playing with the animals, in the Wendy house, on the swing, or when we were older, doing a bit of pretend gardening.

Most of my childhood memories are outdoors: we’d cycled to Richmond Park as a family, and when I was older I cycled there with friends. We got 2 buses to the outdoor pool in Richmond in the summer, completely unsupervised. We played pitch and putt on summer evenings and went to the coast – Angmering-on-Sea, Littlehampton, Bournemouth – on summer weekends. We picked blackberries in the late summer and early autumn. We walked, cycled and swam in the open. Sitting indoors was reserved for winter and really wet days.  TV was an evening only activity, and restricted at that.

So, a city girl living in the far north of Scotland is more at home than you might think. I enjoy being close to nature and the seasons.  Living on a farm means time passes by the things that happen outside: ploughing, planting, lambing, hay-making, harvesting; passing the year through nature’s rhythms.

Life is less frenetic here.  It’s easier to take time to walk, to chat to people.  A lot of children walk to school, and get the opportunity to play outside, although I suspect far less than did a few decades ago.  Nowhere, however remote, is immune from the spread of technology in day-to-day life: the phones, games, pads, music, laptops and Macs.  The gadgets that keep kids, and adults too, locked indoors in bedrooms and lounges across the country.  Electro tech’ that’s deemed so vital, yet keeps a generation of children from accessing what really is vital – a connection to nature; enjoying the great outdoors.

We can’t go back in time to those halcyon days, which we remember as more idyllic than they probably were, but we can teach our children and grandchildren that there is joy to be found in fresh air and countryside by encouraging them to engage in outdoor activity from an early age. Being stuck indoors with a piece of tech should be the less interesting option.  I’m not demonising technology, simply suggesting that children need to reconnect to with the natural world.  We need a generation of caretakers for the earth, and sitting inside watching nature programmes is less likely to spawn one than being outside connecting with nature.

My life-long love of the natural world was kindled by being outdoors, by bringing all sorts of creatures home – rabbits, birds, tortoise, cats, fish, crabs – strays of all descriptions.  My tolerant parents encouraged me to be outside if I was moping about and that always energised me in ways I didn’t understand.  This still holds true today.  A brisk walk, a stroll along the beach, a short run, they all blow the metaphorical cobwebs away and re-charge us in inexplicable ways.

I’m lucky to have arguably the greatest outdoor destination in the country on my doorstep, but whether you’re in the city or another part of the country you’re never far from somewhere outdoors where you can rejuvenate your spirit.  Make being outside a part of your week and I promise you’ll feel better.