Be curious

Tomorrow is my first day back at Uni, starting again in Year 2 of an adult nursing degree.

Someone asked me last week “What are you excited about going back?”

“Err nothing- just angry, grumpy and irritated”.
(Which means I’m getting anxious and I don’t do uncertainty very well.)

So apologies if I haven’t been interacting for a while but I haven’t been very good company.

On reporting this to someone who knows me pretty well she said how about being curious tomorrow. Yess! I can definitely do curious.

I know tomorrow will be fine nothing bad is going to happen and yes I’m going to be curious…


Unwelcome ghosts on a mindfulness daylong practice


Warning: long post featuring dodgy artwork and some exercising of demons.

This was a little while ago now. Most of our practice group came together, with a handful of others who had also experienced an 8 week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course, to spend a day practicing together in silence. For me the greatest struggle turned out not to be the silence or new group members but the venue. We were using “Exeter Castle” which is hoping to make a name for itself as a historical city centre events venue. The problem is that until recently it housed the Crown Court and judges chambers. Despite knowing this, and my history with these buildings, I didn’t think it would be a big problem.

My first visit to these court buildings was as a small child (my guess is less than 5 years old) when my parents were divorcing.To keep me entertained my social worker took me for a walk around the adjacent Roman wall. Then I was called in to a big dark office with a large desk so that the judge could ask me who I wanted to live with.

Some twenty years later I had also watched Peter work as a barrister at the Crown Court before we married and occasionally met him for a tea in the snack bar. The snack bar was a little sanctuary, small and cosy, a brick-built shed really. The sort of thing you don’t see any more, tea in polystyrene cups, whether you were a witness or a barrister, fruit cake, biscuits and probably anything in a sandwich as long as it was toasted – you get the picture.The main Crown Court building (featured image) in contrast was hierarchy and formality on a grand scale. Full of ushers in their long black robes, uncomfortable looking policemen waiting to give evidence and barristers strutting about in their wigs and gowns with their court papers under their arms.

One of the old court rooms was our space for the mindfulness day. Thank goodness the dock, the jury benches and the steps down to the cells had all gone. On the face of it a large open space with high ceilings, huge windows and patio doors giving on to the gardens (and my favourite, the Roman walls, plus a great view of the prison). Someone had put up a large, and probably very expensive mirror, and a wrought iron light fitting from which they had suspended billowy white voile curtains which draped out into the corners of the rooms. It was meant to say “events venue” but I was still seeing court room.

So someone thought in this events venue what would be a good idea would be to refit the court holding cells as toilets. So, just in case you hadn’t caught the atmosphere of fear and intimidation, there was a chance to take a seat in a very small oppressive cell.

The executive decision making centre might have been saying “we can do this” but the archaic brain said “nah” and about ten minutes into each practice I was zoned out. What was lovely was when they had levelled up the floor they had installed underfloor heating which I can highly recommend for a body scan! We did a seated practice, mindful movement, a body scan, mindful walking, more seated practice and something I ducked out of, in favour of a bathroom break.

I finished the day with my executive decision making centre wondering what was wrong with me. As we came out of our silence one of our group revealed that she had had a eureka moment at lunchtime – marvellous my dissatisfaction did a prompt transformation into self-criticism, splendid.

I am reliably informed that my unease and the pervading feeling of fear was down to my childhood experience and the zoning out was the archaic part of my brain trying to protect me. I already had a picture of a section of the Roman wall and to exercise some demons I have done some drawing ( be warned I got a D in ‘O’ level art). I thought it might help to look at how that child felt. I also went back to the castle gates to get a shot of the main Crown Court building, the feature image.



C. J. Sansom (2014) Lamentation. Mantle

The sixth in the series of historical thrillers featuring the lawyer Matthew Shardlake and his assistant Barak. Many of the characters are familiar from earlier books, including Guy the apothecary, Richard Rich, Lady Latimer (now Catherine Parr) and Thomas Seymour.

The queen is desperate for the assistance of those she can trust. The king’s health is failing and he is growing increasingly paranoid. Whispers in the ear of the king can cause him to act impetuously. An act of secrecy or the suspicion of disloyalty can lead to accusations of treason, even if you are the woman he loves and even more so for those who seek to help her. Political manoeuvring, the forming and reforming of allegiances and double-crossing abound. Sansom conjures up the atmosphere of fear and despair behind the grandeur of court life where family honour and upholding the religious traditions are more important than the fate of an individual.

Henry’s ambitions in Europe are bankrupting the country and religious practice is again uncertain as the king looks towards Rome. For those at court, and the ordinary people, the need to follow, and be seen to follow, the religious practices acceptable to the king is paramount.

A gripping read although being a large book it is not so easy to read lying down! All the signs are that, although Matthew is ageing, the lawyer could have a role supporting the king’s successor and this may not be the last in the series of Shardlake books.

Shona MacLean (2011) Crucible of Secrets. Quercus Publishing 

A historical thriller set in Aberdeen in 1631 the murdered body of the university librarian is discovered within the first few pages. Although this is the sequel to “The Redemption of Alexander Seaton” this novel is complete within itself.

Beneath the respectable veneer of the day to day life of the university masters, their associates and families lie some unpalatable truths, including an interest in the carefully guarded knowledge of the masons. The masons are intent on discovering the secrets of alchemy.

A second body is found in a shallow grave. Alexander Seaton is determined to investigate the two murders but his investigations into the lives of powerful people in Aberdeen society put the lives of himself and his family at risk. He is left unsure who to suspect and who he can trust.

A good read, as promised by the picture on the cover. I enjoyed being immersed in 17th century Aberdeen although for me it didn’t convey the wider historical context and I won’t be transferring my allegiance away from C. J. Sansom

Thich Nhat Hanh (2008) The Miracle of Mindfulness. London: Rider


140 pages, a very manageable length. I felt that this would be an interesting follow-up to an 8 week MBSR course. This book was borrowed from the fabulous Devon Recovery Learning Community library 😀

A major focus was on using the breath to anchor our mindfulness practice and if this is something you are struggling this may provide some helpful ideas. Similarly with mindfulness of thoughts and thinking. There are also some practical ideas on sitting positions and a suggestion for how to structure a day of mindful practice very simply at home.

I grappled with Chapter 5 and the concept of the five aggregates and to be honest failed to grasp this. Undeterred I carried on reading.

The chapter on exercises in mindfulness has a number of suggestions and some ideas for contemplations, akin to loving kindness or compassionate meditations. There may be a reason why I had to smile when I reached “Compassion for the person you hate or despise the most” – no, really, yep afraid so.

I particularly liked the image in Chapter 4 of a pebble dropping into a river, sinking through the water and settling in the sand at the bottom of the river as you settle into your practice and into your body. As the pebble rests on the sand it is neither pushed nor pulled by the river. This is something that really caught me and I will integrate into my own practice.

Overall an interesting read that you can skim, dip in and dip out of or as I did and read cover to cover. Definitely a helpful supplement after a taught mindfulness course.



Love / Hate Challenge

This blog recently received its first nomination/ award/ challenge ever! It’s call the Love/ Hate Challenge and I was nominated by The Barefoot Budget. Thanks for the nomination, I think! The Love/ Hate challenge is quite simple really, you just name 10 things love and 10 things you hate, then nominate other bloggers. Mine is a snapshot and reflects what is going on for me at the moment…

10 things I love:

  1. Museums🗿🏤
  2. A cup of tea, especially decaffeinated Earl Grey ☕️
  3. Yoga👣
  4. A shower – I need this and a tea to get me going in the morning 🚿
  5. Radio 4📻
  6. Capturing the beautiful in an iPhone picture, see above.
  7. Easter🎉
  8. My support team. 🐾
  9. Stationery 📚✏️✒️📎📚
  10. Expressing myself, including blogging 😀 📝

10 things I hate:

  1. Mornings ⏰ However the pain is eased by a cup of tea and a shower ☕️ 🚿
  2. Christmas🎅 in particular the media hype, the unrealistic expectations 👪 and having to send a ridiculous number of Christmas cards.🎄
  3. iOS updates📱they eat your storage space and sometimes they kill your iPhone / iPad on which your whole life depends…
  4. Celery. I’ve tried, I don’t like the smell, taste or the texture 👅 The only good thing about it is the low calorie content.
  5. Not being heard. 😡
  6. People who don’t stop talking, see no.5. 🙉
  7. Aligning photos in my WordPress post 📐I’ve given up today and gone with emojis.
  8. People who steal your pens, especially doctors, never trust a doctor with your pen. 😷
  9. People who think rules are for other people. There’s a long list including using your mobile while driving, discussing your social life, in detail in the library (we’re back to 6 again!)…💣
  10. Eurovision Song Contest, what is that about? 👯💃👯💃

I won’t be offended if this is not for you but I need to nominate some bloggers to take up the challenge:


Bluefish Way


babyjill7…Marilyn Griffin

Janey B



The Book Venom




Ipplepen school fete – village life

Marvelous afternoon in the sunshine. Great to see the local dad’s pitching in with sumo wrestling and hooking ducks. We were there to support the Messy Church stall and to make sure the vicar is seen at community events – normally I excuse myself from this sort of excitement but the small furry animals were a big draw (see below). The vicar was there to judge the “small fluffy animals” everyone won a prize e.g. spikiest reptile, most active bunny 😀 Charlie would have liked to help with the judging but he would have been more one mouthful or two, rather than a more subtle appreciation. Nibbles the rabbit had the most exuberant personality and was busy trashing his bed – turns out he was a boy… who would have guessed!

"Someone I love... Art on a cracker"

Craft with Messy Church “Someone I love… Art on a cracker”. I’m very proud of the resemblance given the limitations of the materials available…

Hook a duck

Hook a duck

Sumo wrestling

Sumo wrestling


Messy church craft – making a volcano


Setting up

















Pair of guinea pigs

Pair of baby guinea pigs

Cute hamster

Cute hamster

Bearded dragon

Bearded dragon



Nibbles the house rabbit

4000 nurses together, what an experience!

The Royal College ofNurses democracy in action – points of order, voting members and non-voting members,  electronic voting handsets which I didn’t know I needed…
Trouble with technology the radio waves interfering with the wifi so there was trouble with the electronic voting handsets 🙊

I discovered that my cognitive function is significantly impaired by 1/2 glass of wine 📉 when I’ve been nil by mouth after about 6hrs travelling and bag stuffing. The wine was free but I didn’t want any career defining moments whilst tipsy in the exhibition hall. 🍌

Freebies in the exhibition hall have to be of nominal value as nurses can’t be trusted not to be swayed by a free fob watch, stethoscope etc. so I have a collection of mainly pens… I like a nice pen ✒️

Fun and collaborative interdisciplinary working, stuffing bags in my yellow “here to help” t-shirt (Minion style – note to self must watch a film and check out these minions! Is it a rumour that they eat bananas and kill their master??)

My full day at the conference was packed:

  • 8:15 minion duty ⏰
  • first conference debate
  • more minion duty
  • lunchtime fringe talk on getting students into general practice nursing
  • after lunch morphing into adult nursing student, now dressed in psychedelic pink (bit like a clanger). Great sessions for students:
  • 1) on the importance of self-care and
  • 2) a whistle stop tour of wound care with a tissue viability nurse
  • Free ice cream! 🍦 Yes! Perks of being a student…
  • Mindfulness in the quiet room ⌛️putting self-care into practice.
  • Session on death and dying in an acute hospital setting – asking can we do more for patients and those close to them. Encouraging us to do things differently to meet the needs of the family and in so doing do it better. I can usually hold the tears back but so moving, inspiring and better in its own post.
  • After that I wasn’t up for the regional reception, more wine on an empty stomach, so I walked back up the Eastcliff and 👣💤

Meeting new people – on the train, in the conference hall, on the stands, handing out conference bags, lovely RCN staff and hotel staff at the Marriott 💡

Bournemouth was beautiful. For my last day (no minion duty), lie in, leisurely breakfast and walking to the conference centre next to the beach. Awesome way to start the day with a little mindfulness of seeing.

My hotel was chosen on price not its aesthetics. In need of some TLC but I had a 🛁 my room had tea making, chairs, space, 3G and a plug socket for my charger – snail heaven 🛀🏻

Today I peaked, I sat next to this lady in the most amazing shoes 👠 and helped her open her tin of mints, it turns out she is the UK’s Chief Nursing Officer – wow!

Tweeting 📱

Had to leave the debate on should we change nursing education which is producing 4 distinct learning streams. For adult nursing we need a broader base for us to deliver safe effective healthcare. Next time I’m hoping to contribute to the debate… 📰 🏁



My first RCN congress!


and a little bit scary…

Royal College of Nursing is a professional body representing nurses (and students) in the UK. Their annual meeting is in Bournemouth this year. I’m going on my own and while I’m there I’ll be acting as an ambassador, one way to meet new people! We’ve been promised an attractive yellow t-shirt so I’m looking forward to doing an impression of a minion 😀 TTS




Matthew Johnstone (2015) The Little Book of Resilience. London: Constable & Robinson Ltd


  • image


Matthew Johnstone author and illustrator of bestselling books including “I Had a Black Dog” describes himself as a passionate mental health and wellbeing advocate and has a website I was very excited when his latest offering “The Little Book of  Resilience – How to bounce back from adversity and lead a fulfilling life” dropped through the letterbox.

This beautifully illustrated book suggests that our ideal life is one where the sun always shines, we are happy, healthy and fulfilled… We spend energy protecting ourselves from the realities of life but life doesn’t play fair. We put a lot of effort into regretting our past, maintaining the face we show the world, wanting things we don’t have… Life for most of us will have joys and sorrows and resilience is about how we respond to adversity.

Johnstone offers helpful perspectives such as “Thoughts are not facts”. Importantly he does not suggest that the advice offered is easy to put into practice, for example, “A vitally important virtue is patience. In this world of everything being instant, we expect the same when it comes to our difficulties.”

In Part II Johnstone identifies a number of important areas that need to be attended to if we want to build our resilience which include but are not limited to:

  • physical activity,
  • taking part,
  • helping others,
  • keep learning
  • taking notice

Incidentally these are the 5 ways to well-being promoted by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) see

This is followed by a list of websites for potentially relevant organisations offering information and support.

Finally there are a few empty pages for your own notes.