Plans and Catch-Ups

Its been, dare I say, a fairly productive morning, and hopefully that will continue and I haven’t jinxed it. I’ve been in discussions around setting up a dyslexia awareness talk in mid-July at one of my libraries with the aim of providing support and signposting for families where there is a new diagnosis or the thought that there might be need to investigate. We’re aiming it then to try and tie in with end-of-year school reports when this might be part of some families’ conversations.

I’ve also had a catch up with our corporate sponsor for the LGBTQ+ Staff Network to talk about recent initiatives and how we can look to drum up engagement across the organisation, as well as encourage people within the network to take part in contributing to events and initiatives. It was a good gathering of minds and marked as ever by lightness to balance the serious elements. It’s always nice to hear that people look forward to our meetings because of the smiles.

Just one more meeting to go – a catch up with the managers in my group to compare notes, pass on information and let off steam. We might even have a look at the rotas.

Non-work related, I was also out last night for a rare evening excursion while everyone else was busy – catching up with Lady G and putting the world to rights in a quiet pub corner while ignoring sports coverage on big screens nearby. I had forgotten how nice it is sometimes to just step out for a couple of hours as a break. It was also two for one on burgers so it was a cheap night which is always a bonus.

Right, lunch finished, back to the grindstone

Slow Starts

It took one of my members of staff mentioning it this morning for me to realise that the clocks going forward for summer had thrown my internal bodyclock out. I’m so used to waking with daylight at a given time that the hour’s shift has been very noticeable. I’m pretty sure that’s why I’m feeling woolly-headed and out of sorts today.

Well – it could be another head cold trying to get started, admittedly, but that’s usually not something that makes me yawn and rub my eyes. As tempting as it was to stay in bed, I’ve done the adult thing and got myself to work instead. I’ve picked one of my smaller libraries with staff parking (a rarity), and ensconced myself in the back room to prepare for a meeting and pick off quick-win tasks. Out front there’s been a school visit and the sound of children being children has been a quiet backdrop to the morning.

It’s quietly productive times like this that are easy to overlook when thinking about job satisfaction. I don’t work in an office environment so don’t have the quiet bustle of being around other people. Sometimes that makes the day go quickly, and sometimes it can be unhelpful. I’m very much aware that I have a short week this week as I’ll be travelling for a family event during it, so I’m focused on setting things going that I can come back to, and on tying off loose ends.

With that said, I don’t think its particularly different to many other people’s working week where their work environment isn’t directly involved with frontline customer service. I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this – perhaps just a gentle acknowledgement that sometimes its okay to just let the day tick by, appreciating when things are generally proceeding with only the occasional nudge here and there. It makes a gentle contrast to when everything needs to happen in a hurry or change direction rapidly in response to an external factor.

Here’s to quiet days in the office

Acting Up

Nothing ever stays the same in any area of work or life – and an opportunity for a secondment has come up at work. On the principle of “What’s the Worst that could happen?” I’ve put my hat in the ring to be considered. This hasn’t been an instant decision – far from it. The role is another step up the seniority ladder to a level of role I’ve not handled since I was very unwell nearly twenty years ago. It’s taken a lot of introspection and work in counselling to consider the fears and shadows raised – and to recognise that I am a very different person and have grown and healed considerably since then. Even more important has been the recognition that it wasn’t the previous role that had caused the illness and that there are, in any case, very few points of similarity between that role and this.

So I’ve updated my CV and spent a couple of hours working through a personal statement to support it based on the job role and profile provided – and am now stepping away from it for a few hours before I return to review it. I’m hoping that I won’t spot something immediately problematic and can hit the send button with confidence.

I refuse to let my imposter syndrome sabotage me – and part of that is recognising that this is just an email and a foot at the door. The worst that will happen is that I won’t be what they’re looking for just now and they’ll go with someone else. You know what? That’s okay too

The Power of Our Stories

I was privileged to be involved this week inan event, speaking and introducing other speakers at the Surrey History Centre for their LGBT History Month event called The Power of Our Stories. I was there in my role as co-Chair of the Surrey County Council LGBTQ+ Staff Network and spoke on the power and nature of queer joy to a sold out audience.

We heard from colleagues about the work of the staff network, of Surrey’s provision of support to young LGBT people, and the work of the History Centre in documenting and archiving LGBT stories in Surrey. We heard from a student in film and lens media studies talk about their work and mission to reclaim and desexualise the depiction of trans bodies through challenging expectations. We were also honoured to hear from Bernard Reed OBE, founder of GIRES, speaking of the heartbreaking events that led to their campaign to improve the lives of trans and non-binary individuals throughout the UK. To round it all off, we then had the most beautiful accapella arrangement of Somewhere Over The Rainbow provided by the Surrey Rainbow Choir.

We had stalls from a number of services and charities in Surrey, ranging from the local library and the adoption service, to the police, Catalyst, HER, and Haven. There was talk, laughter, song, and connection among a wonderful array of people – and I was absolutely buzzing from the positivity and happiness that buoyed the whole event.

I’ve been utterly exhausted as a consequence the last day or so, but so worth it and can’t wait to work with my colleagues to make it all happen again. My original copy of my speech was rapidly grabbed by Di to add to the archive but I’ll grab the text when I’m next back in work. Recordings were also made, so as those become available I’ll link to them too.

Spinning Plates

One of the things that simultaneously delights and drains me is the number of metaphorical plates that I spin to do my job. Staff pastoral care, strategic partnerships, outreach, projects, building maintenance, performance monitoring, leadership, staff networks, events, and many more facets all require careful prioritising and switching. The satisfaction of things spinning and landing in place in the right order (more or less) is – to me – hugely rewarding. The downside is the worry and temptation to get lost in the contingency planning.

Having been off for a few days last week I was relieved to find most of the plates still merrily spinning or landing where they were intended. My team have picked up and dealt with things as needed – though there have been some issues that I’ve leapt to the last couple of days too.

For the most part this has been to deal with external events in the local area – and especially the impact on staff. I’ve also got an event tomorrow evening where I’ve agreed to speak: an evening at the Surrey History Centre for LGBT History Month. I am both looking forward to it, and also nervous. It will go well, it will be wonderful – but its still a performance and I’ve had limited time to prepare. What’s the worst that could happen?

Conferences and All That

It’s been a varied and extended week, but a highlight of my week was attending an EDI conference in Dorking this week. It was a chance to meet colleagues working in and across Surrey on practical elements of EDI.

Many of them were people I had only seen on a screen before, so there was a joyous sense of connection that kept leaping up through the day in various group exercises.

Talking and sharing our stories as a diverse group of individuals underlined the commonalities that bind us together in our communities and highlighted the blind spots in our daily lives as we met people living and working in other spaces.

I have always been a champion of the power of shared spaces and listening to other people, and combined with the very practical focus of the event on tangible actions, the whole event felt purposeful.

A big take away from it all was identifying not only who our communities were, but the teams, and mechanisms, and opportunities available to drive better listening and engagement.

My favourite element? We were offered coloured packets of air-drying clay to work with and keep our hands busy during ice breaking and ongoing conversations. I was delighted to see the creativity and conversations these alone prompted.

I made various things, but settled on this happy fellow

Busy Month Incoming

Tomorrow sees the start of LGBT History Month – which will be a busy month for me in my Staff Network capacity. We have events and blogs planned, including a social event and an evening at the History Centre. There’s also Valentine’s Day, a birthday, and a plan to finally see my parents for the first time since lockdown.

Oh, and of course there’s the day-to-day engagement required to keep libraries open. We have family events as ever, stock rotations, and collaborative work with charities and local groups. I have amazing and hard working staff working to make it all happen. Even when I have occasion to quietly mutter under my breath, its within a context of people trying their best.

I think the best challenge is going to be to keep a balance between all the things going on. I’ve not even touched on the D&D games yet. The Librarians adventure will get going properly – hopefully as scheduling settles – and the DDC will return soon.

By soon – I mean this week. I am busy writing adventure seeds and ideas for where it all goes next. I have a very rough direction for it, but picking up the threads from where we ended up will take some work. We ended the last chapter with some very definitive closures for Thorin’s story and have entered into some more epic territory.

We’ve already had prophecy and dragons in the mix – and the levels of power that the characters are at in Eberron are the sort of levels where many adventurers have already retired for easier lives. The DDC are now truly exceptional individuals, and their swashbuckling adventures will be reflecting that if all goes to plan.

So, here’s hoping my brain keeps up with all this plate spinning. Who knows, I might event get some stories and sketching done too…

Hiccups and Stumbles

Life’s ups and downs are, for me, best met with laughter and a polite reminder to myself that very little on the personal scale actually matters in the grand scheme of things – so storms in teacups can generally remain there.

That’s not to say that the little upsets can’t seem enormous and debilitating, but then reality has a way of presenting more pressing issues – like exploding toilets – to keep me on my toes.

In this case, a sewerage problem near one of my libraries has caused sufficient upset that I’m currently sitting and waiting for both Thames Water and our internal properties contractor to arrive and argue over whose fault everything is while a pungently delicate smell likened to a cabbage soufflĂ© settles all around.

At least my ribs feel like they’re all healed up so it doesn’t hurt to hiccup or cough, or indeed laugh any more

A Long Day

Every now and then, a day comes along that throws all previously presumed plans out the window. Today was one of those, and I focused on trying to tackle various building issues directly affecting the public.

It always feels more frustrating in these cases if there is no quick solution. Simple solutions sometimes take longer, especially if you’re intending to not create even more issues in the solving. Even though the day has ended up with moving things in the right direction, I know that my name will be cursed in the short run.

I accept that as an occupational hazard of being a manager. I’ve made decisions and given advice today that was not what some people wanted to hear, but that’s partly what I’m paid for. It doesn’t make it any nicer for me on a personal level, though, as I prefer to have people being happy as they work for me.

Still, it will mean a better situation and service for our customers when everything is resolved – that won’t require backtracking and bureaucracy to unravel so we can then get back on track.

I do love my job, dearly, even on the draining days like today.

And Back To Work

We had a good catchup on Monday with the Charleesi and boyfriend – who have both been working over the Christmas period like us. It was an excuse to get presents to them and spend some time – and to give our newly donated slow cooker a first go. Fair to say that the melt-in-your-mouth meat alone was a treat, especially when mixed with spices and coconut milk for a slow-cooked beef curry experience. It was a good start to the week.

Then it’s been back to the grind – and a strange combination of a slow start that also brought some tough managerial decisions. As is always the way with these things, compromise and conversation in person rather than the sole medium of emails got results and kept storms in teacups where they belonged. It also brought some improvements for some of the people being supported so I’ll take the wins.

I dropped by an unofficial munch (if there’s such a thing) over in Farnborough last night following all that to catch up with people and met some interesting new faces, including a couple of fellow D&D people so a lot of geekiness and sharing of silliness from our respective tables happened. Got some good ideas, and think I introduced one person to at least three new authors they hadn’t encountered before. End of the evening I gave Lady T a lift home and then promptly got stuck after that driving behind someone who barely drove over twenty miles an hour for most of the distance between Staines and home. So, that was fun. At least the new car is a pleasure to drive so as the route didn’t really give me any great overtaking opportunities I settled into my heated seats and pootled along behind until they turned off and cleared the way.

My added bonus today is that, by and large, I haven’t had much discomfort from my ribs. There’s still some tenderness near the sternum, but I’ve been able to take deep breaths, cough, even laugh, and not had stabbing pains for my trouble. I think my body has gone into healing overdrive today though as I’m absolutely shattered and drowsy as I reach the end of the afternoon. I logged off from work, and made the mistake of closing my eyes for a few moments and promptly lost a few hours – so I’m going to take the hint and just be kind to myself for the evening