Tuesday 7 November 2023


November 2023

I'm updating my website link BLOG to become MATERIALS

Under the new link, I'll transfer the best from this BLOG stuff including writing, pictures of work in progress and selected materials produced for events, presentations etc.  

In the meantime please use my website contact page to request materials 


or email me:


Wednesday 4 January 2023

New Year 2023 - Hoping for a Pheonix

New Year 2023 - Hoping for a Phoenix

As NEW YEAR turns do you feel like I do?

Our national climate had been affecting me deeply, ever since the Brexit vote. So, in 2019 I stopped sending a New Year Round Robin. It had cheerily flittered out to friends, colleagues, and relatives. I replaced it with a Round Blue Tit, representing our new Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He tittered, we teetered. Then for Christmas 2020, I chose a Round Magpie, a Corvid, close namesake of the ravaging Covid. I gave up in 2021. It was a tough year, too many lost friends and relatives. In mid-2022 that Tit Johnson’s “oven-ready meal” turned out to be Turkey Truss. Broiled and burnt out in days she left even more fellow citizens struggling after her Kwami-Karsi budget. The lettuce lived on but our Queen died.

As Elizabeth II lay in state I fell into my Covid state and, hallucinating “Christmas Ready” birds for my 2022 missive, I saw a Vulture over the “Johnson Sunak Sunny uplands”, swooping down, from its elite height, guzzling, head dug deep, ripping apart ethics, morals and promises in: parliamentary procedures, PPE contracts and Cop26, to name the few amongst the many. Something is rotten in the state of UK.

Some friends say I’m fixated on the state of politics; the climate crisis; the way we treat the most vulnerable. I admit despair at autocratic, narcissistic leaders who dog whistle jingoistic attitudes, especially against those who want to come and live here - when we need more workers. I am angry with those who clapped NHS workers and now talk of them as enemies of the people. Why shouldn’t I be angry - why aren't we all?

Of course, I can and do blank out these negatives with a wonderful family, my workshop, great hill-walking with friends, good wine, good books and great music.  But, all too frequently the night-nadgers wake me and black dog days, return. I've apologised for grumpiness. I’m not good company, even for myself. The best of you tell of their own kicking against the pricks. That emboldens me - thank you. Most of youn share a negative view of "where we are now". Many allude to some level of despair. 

Recent work

Pre-Covid, I’d begun cutting back professional work. I expected a gentle reduction of busy to a less manic and involved life. Then Covid suddenly ended us all going out - it was a shock. So, being inactive made me, and still makes me, feel frustrated, underused and sometimes unwanted.

Work was always about morality and ethics - 30 years of teaching, Pastoral Care, School Assemblies, Leading Professional Development, followed by 20 years of freelance contracts to problem solve, counsel, train leaders, fix systems. Beyond education into business and the wider worlds. iAbacus summed it all up, offering Self-evaluation and Improvement Planning.

So, what to do? 

Frustrated in relative inactivity, and becoming grumpy, I was becoming the negative I deplore in others.  I grew viscerally angry about the lack of morality embedded in this 12-year-old Conservative Government. I resented them doing so little about what I felt were the right things, for most of us. And yes, this is political. And, no, I couldn't understand why so many more weren’t angry too. Why are so many accepting all this inaction, on the really important social issues?  Maybe I'm seeing Vultures as evil, immoral birds, gorging and partying on the vulnerable, picking on those left weak by austerity and the cost-of-living crisis? Whilst we, potentially active, with a good moral purpose, have been manipulated to be dormant bystanders surveying a barren environment, or should that be Baroness? Watching, idly by, left to moan, or should that be Mone? Not watching the news and avoiding difficult issues whilst bleating, "They are all the same". 

Tutting at the news and waiting for the General Election isn't good enough. Maybe more of us should be even more useful, active, now?  What could we, will we, resolve to do?

I made some resolutions.

I'll try and take my own advice and “Do less well rather than more badly”,. I'll “keep it simple, as it gets complicated anyway” So, I’ve deleted my Linked-In and Instagram Accounts.  I thought I'd leave Twitter again but whilst I shudder at the hate in some contributors (I'll block them) I cannot find any platform that opens up so much... so I'll stick with it. I'll post on Facebook and BLOG. I resolve to better cherish family and friends; indulge my love the workshop; get into wild mountains with good friends and go on jaunts. My black dog days will be with our two calm labradors Ebony and Coal who slink through life with love and care.

I’ll find ways to work on the #SilentWitnesses who, so far, have found it impossible to comment and act. So, I'll be encouraging more to speak up, discuss and use fact-based arguments. I will continue to challenge that daft maxim, “Do not discuss politics, religion or sex”. Such idiocy has rendered generations mute about three pillars of successful existence. I am pondering a third book “Stepping Stones”.  I'll look for and respond to requests to help.  I want to be more positive so here’s a final positive thought….

What if Vultures are the good birds?

What if people who think like me, and I now know there are a lot of us, what if we swooped down and began attacking the mess left by the corrupt?  Vutures clean up our world! Som the more who circle, dive and get stuck in, the quicker we’ll be successful.  Indeed, there are plenty, already out there, protesting, striking, lobbying and getting noticed. I like this image of a noble, environmentally frindely recycling Vulture looking for the right place to swoop.

So, let’s shriek truth to power, breathe some fresh air into the moral vacuum. Then sometime soon I’ll select a Phoenix, as my Christmas/New Year bird - maybe in 2024?

Monday 29 August 2022

Taxation can be good for us.

First draft Sunday 29th August

NB Work in progress  - I'm happy to take comments and incorporate positive ideas!

It's summer 2022 and most people accept that we are heading for a financial crisis.  The price of energy, fuel, food and consumables is rising fast and predicted to continue rising.  Inflation is forecast to be in the teens soon and is also rising at an alarming rate, For some families and individuals this is already a major issue.  

Many are already taking strike action, in fear of their income not meeting their outgoings. A summer and winter of discontent is forecast.  There are plenty of reasons why all this is happening but I'm leaving those reasons to one side because, like many  I'm fed up with hearing journalists, politicians and pundits describing the problems and arguing about, “Why this is so”.  I want to hear about what steps we, as a nation, a society, might take.

I think I understand the problems but I’m not hearing anything convincing about solutions. The candidates for Prime Minister are bickering now and, understandably, if frustratingly, only trying to appeal to their membership, that relatively small and niche group who will put them in power over all of us. 

Worse, our current, failed PM, and his cabinet seem to have lost interest and have already abdicated, passed the buck and are limping off stage right. We are in limbo, purdah…. 

What might happen next?  I have some fears about that too but we really must stop moaning about the problem and start discussing, debating possible solutions….

I want to discuss raising taxes. But, oddly, I can find no one, in the media, or politics, suggesting, that income taxation should be raised on those who have a clear ability to pay more.  Why is this so?  OK some say because it’s not popular and the Tories, the rich, won’t vote for it…. I’m asking why not?

I’m puzzled because, for conservatives, it seems a sensible, caring and excellent manifesto fulfilling “levelling up” suggestion. For Labour it seems a great act of socialism.  And…surely, for anyone with a sense of society, community, fairness and morality, it should be a sound idea. At least it’s a reasonable discussion to enter? 

My own morality, ethics (ie politics) suggest we could become a fairer, more civilised and less financially polarised country if we thought, in more detail about taxation and how, properly focussed, it could help us deal with the dire consequences of the financial crisis. 

Let me try and place the first stepping stones of my ideas…

Years ago I wrote four descriptions for individuals and families to help them judge their level of Financial Wellbeing.  This was part of work on a “Health and Wellbeing iAbacus* - I was thinking finance, along with health and relationships was a key factor in happiness..  

The Four levels of Financial Well-being:

1. We/I have insufficient income to meet our basic needs. We have no assets or savings.

2. We have sufficient income to meet our basic needs. We have some assets and little, or no savings

3. We have sufficient income to meet our basic needs and have some to spare for luxuries. We have some assets and modest savings. 

4. We have more than enough income to meet all basic needs and chosen luxuries with disposal income to spare. We have significant assets and savings. 

Working from these levels I just want to discuss with a significant someone, somewhere in politics, or punditry that two, interlinked, policies could be introduced to ameliorate the the dire consequences of the financial crisis, before we approach some kind of societal breakdown, when matters, as they will, get worse.

First, we need an increase in taxes, modestly for those at level three (above) and significantly for those at level four, to provide support, and create circumstances, for any at level one to progress, at least, to level two.

Second this should be accompanied by a policy that taxes companies and organisations that take excessive profits out of their business, unless and until they pay their staff reasonable wages in line with a national formulae related to directors’ and shareholder remuneration and benefits compared with the lowest paid staff, in their setting.

That’s it… a work in progress, shared to spark, at least a discussion about fairer taxation and wealth distribution.  

Please explain why this would not work…


Suggest ways to improve my logic.





*iAbacus.com our on-line self-evaluation and strategic planning tool that turns your judgement, on any issue of concern, into an action plan to help remove that concern, or improve the situation.

Tuesday 28 December 2021

Stepping Stones

Stone Edge

a view from and of the way to Stanage Edge.


Map these stepping stones and you will know where you have been,

But will you ever learn from all that we have seen?

 We have quarried out our story, as our memories have grown

And marked the march of time on the boulders and the stone.


Stone Age, stone step, stone edge, stone ridge,

Footpath, footstep, footprint, footbridge.

We have chipped out meagre words to the rhythms in our head,

Pressing footprints of our journey on the pathway we still tread.

 We saw the ragged traveller with sapphire tears for eyes,

Longing for her lover whilst choking on his lies.

We have spied the wounded soldiers, weary from the war

Tramping up these rolling hills girding up for more.

We smiled at laughing children as they scrambled on the ledge,

And saw them older, weep and waver on the edge.

We heard the pack-horse whinny, heart pumping, up this slope,

Whilst her salt trader, eager, breathless, travelled on in hope. 

We have seen the joy of workers, freed at last from toil,

Become climbers pitching up to let their ropes uncoil.

The nights have fallen, like leaves and lives, too soon,

As smoke from a thousand wood-fires whispered to the moon. 

So up this rolling rover’s way, as you tread this stone age stone

Know your final step is one you take alone.

Look back down, along the winding of your way,

What marks your aftermath, what will your headstone say?

Might weeping and weariness be your final measure?

Or will your joy and hope be the memories to treasure?


Stone Age, stone step, stone edge, stone ridge,

Footpath, footstep, footprint, footbridge.


November 2008

Saturday 11 December 2021

Unless You Care

A short story from Desire Lines  click to find

I wrote this short story in 1984 and was reminded of it during a discussion with a valued group of colleagues yesterday (Next Stage Radicals) so I wanted to share it, at least with them.   It goes to a sense many are having about the relative inaction of governments, not just in the UK, but around the world, who seem to be losing a moral, or ethical purpose.  They seem to pay only lip service to any real, meaningful action on the big issues but focus on personal gain and short-term headlines. What's worse, perhaps, are too many voters, who have lost any sense that they can make a difference.  Have we learned helplessness?  Have we lost the drive to care? \

Can we see where the path we are on is leading?

Unless You Care

Sometime in the future, unless you care, the sun will rise one morning with a great show of blood red.  Rivers of this dull light will flow down the grey buildings and search out the shapes of this futuristic city.  Few people will wake to greet the sunrise.  A sunrise, a thing of beauty, will not be valued, beauty does not mean much to some people even now.  Besides, the people who like looking at sunrises will have a video of one in their apartment.

The few windows in the city are high above the street level, deliberately more than a stone’s throw from vantage points, or other windows.  Most are shielded by regulation blast and radiation-proof shutters.  Large, identical, well-spaced towers, like huge gravestones, meet the eye.  Steel doors occasionally break their flat, grey, concrete surfaces.  As high up as can be reached, they are pockmarked and sprayed with primitive drawings and messages.  None are obscene because once forbidden words are now in crude and common use.  Besides, people who like plain walls and censored writings will have these in their apartments.

Dominant sounds are the whispering cackle of wind-torn plastic containers and paper rubbish.  No grass grows within the city walls; it was trodden to mud by a million footsteps and concreted over long years ago.  Even adults in this city do not know of the feel of grass underfoot.  Remembering eyes can spot giant tubs full of grit and stones, where once bushes, flowers, and saplings had been planted.  These have been uprooted and their replacements’ thin, green stems snapped so often that the city organisers ceased planting generations ago.  Green and growing things are only to be found beyond the city wall where woodlands flourish but no one ventures there, lest the strangers or unemployed, or others, should attack.  No one, in living memory, who has left the safety of the city, has returned.

A starling flies its ragged way from building to building and sings a monotonous note, it has little to mimic.  Unless you care, birds other than the selfish starling will not survive.  Besides, people who like birdsong will have tapes of birdsong in their apartment.

There are a hundred identical cities in the country and a million identical apartments in each.  A preferred standard family quartet, of male and female guardians, plus a boy and a girl inhabit all apartments.  At the appointed time computers softly bleep and switch on breakfast equipment and communal generators whirr, as power is sucked from them.  Later the central locking system loosens airtight seals and the guardians are able to slide living room doors open.  Leaving the young at home, they leave the apartments.  They merge into frightened groups but set their faces to unsmiling, to cause fear in others.  Groups are safe, single people are likely to be attacked.  No police force will help them, and unless you care, it will be against the law to intervene.

Work is done by the guardians in large, low buildings away from the apartments.  Translucent fumes spew out of tall chimneys, rippling the horizon of fresh aired, green hills far away, outside the city walls.  Besides people who like clean air have air conditioners in their apartment.

The descendents of those who had timeshares in the original walled estate now eat and live in this city.  Those who refused to contribute to the venture, over time, were deemed others, the unemployed, unemployable and undesirable.  They were put outside those first low walls.  Now the City Organisers manage, a Virtuous Triangle for each citizen – it is easier to explain than democracy and works on a simple “input for output” model.  The three elements of the Citizens’ Bond are: Food for Opportunity; Apartment for Administration and Media Access for Education.  So, citizens have a right to Food and lodging if they take the Opportunity for work and some responsibility for Administrative duties, including waste and recycling.  A family’s input of Educational responses, during the day creates an output of entertainment Media to their screens in the evening.  Thus the triangle is complete.  In one of the long low Opportunity Buildings food is processed.  It is augmented with synthetic proteins and additives and much is recycled from waste.  Administrative Police patrol the wall, their only duty.  It is easy work, for no one has tried to enter, or exit, for years. The City Administrators do not know how the others outside survive and, unless you care, no one will.  

The working day is ended by a single tone from a siren. Starlings echo this tone in their hundreds and gangs of workers go home to safety and close their doors.  Telescreens change to multi-media entertainment and the working youth are free from educational output.  Many go out and loiter in the passages and walkways to play, talk and fight under blue arc lights.  They can do no damage, except to each other and the equation is like this: stay in stay safe, go out risk hurt.  No one cares for the well-being of those who are out and, unless you care, no one will.

In the apartments guardians and remaining children watch flickering screens, listen to tapes, or thumb through picture books.  These people are not the same as us - they do seem strange.  It could be their skin lacks lustre because of the artificial light or perhaps their eyes are dull because of the viewing.  Certainly, they are different, almost as if they do not care, or even know how to care.

Slowly, the sun begins its change from yellow to red and darker to maroon, as it settles on the horizon.  This is a wonderful and uplifting contrast with the light blues of the evening sky for the one who looks.  For a few seconds, everything is soaked in red and then blackness draws in after an uncertain twilight.  The arc lights blind in a moment of brilliance and dip a warning signalling five minutes before curfew, when the last apartment door slides closed and central locking whispers the last clean air from the radiation seals.   All is silent, except for a dull rumble of radar panels, turning their slow, pirouettes of paranoia.  Each is connected to carefully preprogrammed, retaliation computers.  By midnight, all but one of the citizens is asleep.  Unless you care, she too will close her eyes.  Unless you care, she too will fall asleep.

But a girl who lives in this city lies awake and as she stares at the ceiling a slow tear wells from her eye and it is a spark of hope in the dark, sleeping city.  She is awake and she is thinking.  She is awake and she is dreaming.  She has made her decision.  She swings out of bed, dresses and, just as she had planned, she fires up her computer and programs the seal in the door. The computer registers the predictable fault she intended and she knows she has long enough to leave without a trace.  On her stealthy way to the wall, she meets no one, of course.  At last, she reaches the wall and stands on the parapet.  For a moment, she just stands on the edge, silhouetted against a rising full moon.   This is not hesitation but resolution.  She leaps into space.  

She lands uneasily, bumping and sliding down the steep incline knowing she cannot return up the mildewed slope.  Only a little shocked and bruised she rests at the foot of the imposing walls, sensing a new silence, away from electronic hums and those invisible radio and radar waves.  She stumbles across the grass with some difficulty but enjoys the bounce of its feel underfoot.

Amongst the trees at last, she slows down and breathes in deeply.  There is a scent she somehow knows all around her but she does not recognise it yet.  Unless you care she never will.  She walks on and the moonlight begins to filter through the lacework of the trees and a damp, cool breeze brushes her hair.  There is no obvious path, but remembering what she has read, she occasionally kneels and looks through the woodland foliage.  Eventually, she sees it.  It is a faint but discernable line of parted and brushed fronds.  There is some light and even warmth ahead.  She can follow where someone, or something, has gone before.  Eventually, the faint wood smoke greets her and it smells and even tastes better than she thought and could have imagined because it is all new.  She cannot understand all her new feelings but she knows they are strong and good and are the beginning of her joy.  She starts to run, harnessing the energy of excitement as she makes her way deeper into the trees.  She has only a vague idea of what she will find.  It is about hope, risk, dreams, and unrestrained joy.  This feeling she is experiencing now is better than you can imagine - even if you care, for the emotion of a new wonder can only be sensed this once.


to be continued...


Tuesday 19 October 2021

Wild swimming in turbulent seas

Waving, fishing, thriving but not drowning.


Hi Counsellors, Mentors, Coaches, Change Agents, Leaders, Next Stage Radicals, it’s me with my water metaphors... again. 

I’m afraid of drownings in these turbulent seas of Covid, Consumer Shortages and Climate Change. I fear the swirling C's of chaos and catastrophe. So, I need to check out my analysis and some ideas that maybe help us improve our approaches being helpers.

I often quote Jack Nicholson’s character to his counsellor in “As good as it gets”,

“Hey, I’m drowning here and all you’re doing is describing the water!”

But I've just seen the wider context for that oft quoted line. Here it is and, remember, as you watch, that we helpers are the guy in the brown check dressing gown....


Seeing this clip nudged me to move on from nagging people like me ( us? ) infuriating colleagues and friends by constantly "describing the water" rather than looking to find ways to take helpful, positive action.  I'm especially concerned that people like us, charged with being the helpers, are now waving, not yet drowning. Many of us are struggling to cope too.


It’s clear that, in almost all sectors, morale is very low and pressure very high.  My recent conversations with several specific colleagues, in the NHS, Civil Service, Education and Business, and then more generally, plus reading the news and social media, suggests we are in deep churn (when a surfer is under the water, unable to breathe, or know which way is up to air - when organisations are under huge pressure and unable to do the basics, let alone develop)

"I’m stuck in a rut of, overwork, tiredness and feeling somewhat disillusioned environmentally, politically and at work..." (Chair of a Council)

“On top of this...personally, I’m juggling a mid-career, mid-life crisis with heavy family and financial responsibilities too… it is affecting my health”. (Civil Servant)

In a statement of the bleeding obvious, all of us have personal issues including health, relationships, finances. Each work team has their specific needs too. On top of these will be the organisational expectations, often Government and finance determined.  And with the C's seemingly unabated, how can we helpers prepare colleagues and friends to surf these waves of rising pressures, increased needs and wants and begin to find coherent sets of issues to address?

We all know that, especially in such turbulent times, the need to develop, adapt, change and improve continues…indeed it may well need to increase, to cope with the perfect storms.  This is all predictable but is the increased helplessness, self-preservation and survival mood of colleagues, leading to a push back against the development activity we are asked to lead? Any development activity?

"Oh no...not you again…. .look we are SO BUSY... we’re only just keeping our heads above water.. .... we can't cope with all this transformational change stuff… it will just have to wait..." 
(Department Lead Consultant - normally a keen change agent - quoted by NHS Trust Improvement Director)

The real fear, shared by those I have been talking to, is that many, who were once effective advocates, leaders for change, are themselves tired out, stressed, even ill. Is this a new reality, facing those trying to implementing transformational change during tough times of churn? Are we helpers too experiencing a critical increase in learned helplessness and hopelessness ourselves?  Tell me if I am catastrophysing.   I do remember being somewhere like this before.

I remember a School Improvement colleague going into a Special Measures, so called, “Failing" School, and facing a room full of demoralised faces. He suddenly realised they were expecting, when he overheard,

“Yet, another bollocking from another prat, who has no idea of what it’s like working here, almost certainly couldn’t hack it anyway and, has obviously escaped front-line pressures years ago”

But what really irked him was being given a motivational thump on the back by the Director of Education,

“Go in and work your magic, inspire them, motivate them, like you always do!”

It was a genuine attempt to fire him up, just once more, but it had the opposite effect. But they could all leave the school site and go into what we now refer to as a normal world.  How does that feel when the "new normal" is a world of increasing Covid and Climate Emergency?

In short, I fear the weaker, those charged with rescuing are, they won't be waving but drowning and will be useless as rescuing. This calls for well judged and modified points and natures of intervention.  Our clients need by someone energy enough to DO something rather than describing the water, the dead, the drowning and the waving.

What might we do?

How do we thrive in order to “create the permitting circumstances” for change, when morale is so desperately low? The priority has to be looking for strategies to help the helpers because if they ( we? ) are tired, weak and helpless, who will be there to help the most vulnerable, those we normally lead, inspire and nurture?

A recent discussion of these fears with an international group of colleagues, all keen helpers, “The Next Stage Radicals” seemed to suggest they too saw these fears and we began to tease out some thoughts.

Some stressed the critical starting point, for many of us commissioned to seek improvement, is to remind ourselves to work from “Where they are”, as individuals and teams, rather than take on the mantle of yet another who goes in to suggest ideas or worse, “hector them about where they should be”.  We agreed that creating the right circumstances for even thinking about development and change has to be a fine balance between listening and developing an honest understanding of the specific individual and team's current conditions and, only then, seeking a realistic set of explorations about what a more desired state of affairs might look like.

So, we felt, unless we show acceptance of individual views and respect differences, we will be greeted with a wall of cynicism, distrust, even fear. Cynicism is an understandable bastion against any extra work that “feels false”, especially if it parades itself in complex terminology and, as a cynical colleague observed,  "endlessly circular diagrams".  This becomes hopeless when it comes on top of waves of cuts, an already excessive workload and staff shortages.  

My personal warning. I well remember dealing with an apoplectic staff team who had felt their "Well-being training day" had been an utter, and complete, waste of time.  Later, I was surprised by serious twitter pile-on when I suggested that well-being was far more than handing out happy bags and smiley badges and promising "one evening a week with no work to take home".  I was arguing for a genuine reappraisal of the ways work was allocated and how we could reduce workload.  Any new leader, change agent or, heaven help them, those who carry the label “consultant”, who leaps in keen, energetic and optimistic spouting about opportunity in adversity maybe deserves the silent derision and deep resentment, they get.  We all have to be uber-sensitive, emotionally alert, thoughtful.

Some maybes…. (offered in the hope they may coalesce into strategies)

FIRST, maybe counterintuitively, it might mean us soorting the pressure SYMPTOMS as a priority and leaving the longer term transformational stuff for later.  So, to start, it's going to be about ensuring that those of us still with strength, survive ourselves.  We have to regroup and stop ourselves just describing the water and wringing our hands...if only because it infuriates. We have to rethink too - we can't keep doing what we did before.  We have to set about rescuing and sustaining our strongest, closest, change-agents, those who are still waving. Yes, it will be about throwing in life-lines, life-belts - anything that floats - especially good ideas.

“I’m doing shifts on the wards to ease the pressure - because that’s what they need” (NHS Trust Improvement Director)

“I run several 4 hymn assemblies - to give staff some extra prep time” (Headteacher)

In metaphor mode it’s about pulling them out of the water, drying them off, making them warm, helping them thrive. Only when they have the strength to help others, will they be able to get on with their day job and maybe be ready to properly prepare for transformational change activities.

Extending another water metaphor, it’s not either eating a fish or learning to fish - it’s more sensible to cook them a fish meal, so they are sustained, and only then, judging when they are in a state of readiness to learn how to fish.

This reminded me of, “reading readiness” that state young children move into when the groundwork of storytelling and letter shapes has been grasped and a real desire to read drives them to read. It is impossible for them to become 
readers until they are in readiness.  It’s even more difficult to teach reading to 14 and 15 yr olds, who missed their readiness the first time around, but it can be done, we did it.  Maybe “change readiness” is the similar state we need to achieve and yes, it is likely to be most difficult with those who have been around the block a few times and are especially tired.  But we have to believe it is never impossible.  A colleague told me that flogging dead horses is not cruel, but that flogging dying horses is, so he said, "Tell them to lay off and give me some recovery space".

As we approach that point of change readiness, not a minute before, it will be about digging out, discovering and sharing practical, universal, proven approaches that will really help, and tailoring these for our local rescuers to use, in their specific settings. We all know
 that the basic skills of helping: facilitation, empowering, coaching, respecting and listening - all sharpened and honed, with emotional intelligence - help us uncover and meet individual need.  But in a crisis there is a magnetic and urgent pull to quick action - resisting quick fixes is hard but often necessary. We have to take it slow.

SECOND, as we sense our newly sustained change agents are becoming re-empowered to take over the rescuing and seeing to their colleagues, maybe they need to see us standing back a little, looking at the water and, rather than just describing it again, seeking to involve colleagues fully in identifying the CAUSES, of the symptoms that have to be addressed.

Back to the water metaphor it's now about going upstream and looking for: the causes of the flood; how to stem the flow, and maybe challenging those who threw us, and our colleagues in?  It's at this point that more sophisticated but still bespoke approaches like systems thinking, forensic financial reviews, studying psychologically informed environments and critical incident analysis may be useful.  What is certain is the urgent need for some early improvements, ideally visible, tangible, meaningful and broadcast widely.  These should go to the the heart of purpose.  We will also need to be consensual as we create solid plans to properly challenge the lack of thought manifest in the "unintended consequences" that caused the turbulence and failed to sort the causes that got us into these crisis situations. We also need to apologise, profusely and openly for any of our work that failed to help as the waters rose and promise to do better immediately.  We are all judged by what we do, nit what we say.


In times of great pressure, even crisis, it’s crucial we look after our people first. So, a respect for and consideration of their wants and needs “For me” is first: (keep fit; eat well; get relationships right). Then, only when we/they are ready for change, can we move on to considering wants and needs “for us”: (supporting and caring for those closest; at home and in work teams and identifying our ideas about better future conditions). Only then, if enough energy remains, can we move on to consider the expectations, hopes and requirements, “for everyone”: (in the organisation; community; society and world.)   It’s here we must feed in a realistic view of organisational and government expectations and demands.  They have to be faced. They might be finessed. They can't be ignored. But beware of raising them too soon! 

 Paradoxically, the priority often left to last is the one we all must all care about most, “for everything”: (our Earth’s climate change, its warming, melting ice-caps, depleted environment, flora and fauna,) There is a strong and growing sense of extinction around and that consciousness is depressing and weighing down colleagues who care. Some are still denying, others are rebelling, most are despairing, 

So, part of this is about 
asking ourselves and each other, “What is the point of getting the hospital, school, our business, neighbourhood, community and charity functioning better, only for it to be swept away in a hurricane, fire, or flood?  What can we do, whilst we are thinking about our immediate future? 

For too many, in 2021, the rising waters are literal and no longer metaphorical.

John Pearce October 2021

Sunday 9 May 2021

Crack Willow Blues

On May 8th, this year, I was walking the dogs by, this, my favourite tree, a huge Crack Willow.
It was a cold, wet afternoon and I was thinking about a friend's burial.
I felt a blues brewing, so, standing by my tree I drafted "Crack Willow Blues".
But there's more to the story - see below...

Crack Willow Blues

Well I’m walking the woods the other day
Down by the stream where the willows sway
I spy my willow, the tallest there
I’ve a rope to climb it if I dare.

Cry willow, Crack Willow
Will you loose me some slack?

Then I saw an Old Man staggering round
Dragging a shadow around on the ground
And there’s an Old Woman sat by the tree
She ain’t got no shadow I can see.

Cry willow, Crack Willow,
Will you crack at my back?

I ask the Old man, “What do you see?
He turns, looks and points to me,
Holds his head and begins to cry,
“Have you seen a woman walking by?

Crying willow, Crack Willow
Will she come back?”

I said, “I’m staying my side of this rickety fence
Cos, she ain’t got no shadow
And you ain’t got no sense.
But it’s good to be thinking and it’s good to talk
I've got to go now and be on with my walk.

Cry willow, Crack Willow
I’m not coming back.”

He called, “I had two women who walk with me”
I left my first under this tree,
The other said she’d follow on
I keep on looking but I think they’re gone.

“Cry Willow, Crack Willow
Will they ever come back?”

So, I climb the fence and am looking around
I can see no shadows on that ground
Now, there ain’t no woman and there ain’t no man
And I’m left here thinking what I am.

Cry will you, Crack Willow
When will you crack?

Yeh, the Old Crack Willow began to crack
And I’m trying so hard to get me back
But I can’t get through this rickety fence
Now I ain’t got no shadow and I ain’t got no sense.

Crying willow, Crack Willow,
You cracked at my back.

So I sit a while and worry some more
When I see a shadow there on the floor.
She says, “Leafman, why're you hiding away?
I came to find you this Summer’s day!

Crying Willow, Crack willow
I just came back”

Now I see a young man walking by
I hold my head and begin to cry
Shouting, “Don’t you climb this rickety fence
Stay that side and make your sense!

Cry willow, Crack Willow
Won’t you cut him some slack”

Don’t walk in the trees and avoid the woods
They’re full of will you’s, coulds and shoulds.
Stay well clear of the rickety fence
Beware the shadow of recompense

Cry willow, Crack Willow
I’m not coming back.

John Pearce Draft II
July 6th Dawn at the kitchen table

12 bar blues in CFG - Style "What fools believe" - Tempo 95 - Memory 8

After the first Draft of "Crack Willow Blues" I wanted to take a photograph of the tree and, to do so, I needed to step back off the path. I took some photos, including the one at the top of this post, and there was a sudden, very loud, crack and the sound of something falling through the branches above. I cringed as a limb of a Cracked Willow fell behind, missing me by a a body length.

I realised I was surrounded by these huge, heavy trees and, obviously, felt vulnerable. I then realised that "my tree" had not yet cracked.

The second Draft, above, written in July, incorporated the experience

May 8th By the Crack Willow