weeknotes 07/2020

Five weeks later and I’ve found some time to blog again.  I’m having to pay more attention to where I put my efforts – people are getting to know that there’s another helpful chap around.  I am, sooner or later, going to have to get used to disappointing people and saying no, but not quite yet…

  • We “processed” 24 babies at the baby clinic.  To be clear, I don’t do any of the actual weighing, measuring or advice-giving, I just say hello to the parents, make them tea and encourage them to stick around to talk to each other.  3 families had arrived before the nurses got here – word is spreading that if you want to get in and out quickly, you need to be early.  Nonetheless, people really appreciate a no pressure cup of tea with an environment in which they can chat but also feed comfortably and do a change if needed.
  • After that I did my first Lunch Club where I was down as a helper but couldn’t do much until after 12.30.  I did lend a hand serving and clearing and washing up, oh and eating, obvs.  Lunch Club is our monthly meal for older people, mainly for members of the congregation but we don’t enforce that too strongly!
  • I’ve also had my introduction to the plans for “Holiday at Home” which is a whole day, in August, of activities for our older friends – there’s also talk of a Church Outing in the air…
  • We had a visit from a Church member and her family to take infra-red pictures of the church to see whether there were obvious places where insulation is missing or not working.  My favourite images are of the underfloor heating snaking around in the sanctuary.
  • I introduced some collaging to Sunflower Café on Wednesday, although I had to play hunt the pritt-stick first.  We keep trying different things to stimulate people’s minds in different ways.  Just picking up scissors and cutting a complex shape can be a stretch, in a good way.
  • Meanwhile nextdoor we had 180 or so people for Bach to Baby – this month was a piano and flute recital.  It’s a relaxed event, so no need to worry about a little one who gets noisy or needs to move around.
  • I had a good chat with Liz Slade from the UK Unitarians.  We’ve met before through Dougald but since then we’ve both started working in churches, although she’s facing national issues in contrast to the hyperlocal that I experience.   It was good though to talk about how you go deeper than the small talk that can often fill church activities and make rich connections between people.
  •  No bowls club as it was half-term, but the tea-dance went ahead.  I’m still working on how best to engage and involve the students from the university’s Ballroom Dancing Society and bring a bit of intergenerational zing to the proceedings.
  • Speaking of which I went down to the Intergenerational Music Making “hub” at the Electric Theatre on Friday to see how they were getting on.  They’ve started writing a song together and I joined in with getting a melody together.  I’m hoping that we can support them more, there’s a bit of crossover with our dementia-friendly work but there should be other ways we can collaborate too.

Singing For The Mind

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I wrote this, and my manager Graham kindly read it, for the service last Sunday about the music work we do with people living with dementia and their carers.


“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” Twenty voices in unison releasing for a few minutes the individual identities we brought into the room. On Wednesday mornings at Singing For The Mind we put aside whatever descriptions we arrived with: “person living with dementia”, “carer”, “community worker” and lift our hearts in song together, joining in an act of communal music-making.

It may sound obvious, but singing together is different from talking together. On alternate weeks, we do talk informally together over games and crafts, coffee and biscuits and those conversations are important to help people remember who they are and get to know each other better. It is good to talk. But we try to balance that with the opportunity to all do the same thing at the same time, to transcend the separation that comes with this illness and lose ourselves in the one-ness of group singing. It is not only a rare opportunity for physical expression of the spirit but also an affirmation of our community.

Half of the people in the room may struggle to remember what they did yesterday. The other half deal with the challenges that this condition presents, some of them with loved ones that they’ve known for half a century.

Together, we not only create a bigger sound, but we also create a space in which the strongest can carry those who are feeling physically or mentally weaker. Working with familiar words, melodies and rhythms awakens parts of us all that we might ordinarily allow to doze off.

There isn’t any hard work to be done, the music is simple and the sounds we make are not always sophisticated but when we join in song we join in spirit whether that’s singing along to a rousing gospel choir’s “Amazing Grace” or just joining in with the “clap, clap” in “Glad All Over” by the Dave Clark Five!

weeknotes 02/2020

I started working as Community Worker at Guildford United Reformed Church in the middle of last November.  It was fun trying to find my feet working in a church for the first time in the weeks running up to Christmas.  I’ve settled into a bit more of a routine now and started writing weeknotes, primarily for the members of the church to know what I’m up to and what I’m thinking about.  But I’m going to share them here too (hopefully earlier than Tuesday in future!) for you, the readers of ye olde perficked patthe weblogge, whose thinking continues to help make my thinking.

Weeknotes for week 2 of 2020

A brief summary of the week beginning 13th January – I aim for brevity but that can end up opaque, so if there’s anything you want to understand better, please do send me a message or pop in and see me at the church. I’m mostly here weekday mornings.

  • I like to start the week with my friends from the Bowls Club who come in on Monday morning to play Rummikub or Scrabble. There’s always room for more, especially for keen Scrabble players, and I’m sure we could make room for other games if there was enough demand. Bowls proper happens on Thursday mornings in the hall, regularly attracting at least a dozen players.
  • I took part in an Older People’s Network meeting organised by Voluntary Action South West Surrey. Very interesting for me to see how many other people are wrestling with similar issues and heartening to know that there are lots of potential collaborations we could do.
  • I’m starting to think about how to build further on some of the things we do and how we know that we’re doing the right things as well as doing things right. I’m looking at all of the activities and trying to see how they could be even better, as well as building some rigour into how we assess the success of activities. I like to frame that as “what’s the best that this group could possibly be?” to stretch our imaginations about what can be achieved, even if we never quite reach perfection!
  • I spent Saturday in Safeguarding Training, thinking about ensuring the well-being of all the people who use the church. While not wanting to drown myself and others in paperwork, there are definitely things we could be more clear about and be better at including it in the process we go through whenever we set something new up.
  • This Sunday was Church Meeting, which is a great chance for me to see people from the congregation that I might not get much time with in the day to day work. We had a very interesting discussion about being a more eco-friendly church and this is a strong theme in the work I want to do. I believe it can be an important bridge, especially between the generations. The challenge is to create opportunities for us to do our bit on climate change without pushing all the work onto members and volunteers who already have more than enough to do. So I’ll be thinking creatively about how we collaborate with others and bring new people in to help around this important issue.

Guildford Anti-Flood

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On Saturday afternoon, the weir and footbridge on the River Wey just upstream from the Millmead Lock collapsed. It’s a popular place for people to stroll at the weekend, so it’s not surprising that there was someone on the bridge at the time and given it’s 2019, equally unsurprising that they managed to shoot some video of it!

Guildford has a long history of water issues where the river flows through the town, but usually the problem is flooding. The management of the levels at the moment is impressive. There was a blip at the measuring station (the map hints that it’s in between the Town Bridge and Bridge Street in that bit by the YMCA) soon after the bridge went, but nowhere near “minor” flooding levels.

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The river/canal on the lock side of the weir has drained to very low levels. Past the weir is the lock and then an offshoot that goes round and pools on the other side of the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre. There’s also a Thames Water station next to the lock but I’ve never known what actually goes on there! The stretch of water directly affected is between St Catherine’s Lock, upstream and to the South and Millmead Lock which is near the town centre.

I first heard about it when I walked home from town on Saturday evening and saw that the area from the footbridges was taped off. It looks like that’s been relaxed now and people are able to get as close as a yard or so from the edge but there’s protective fencing.

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I went out for a walk today, joining the river at the bottom of Ferry Lane. The water level is much lower here. Usually that pipe is completely submerged. I took this picture from the water’s edge which is about ten feet further out than usual. I had a wander round and picked up a few bits of old broken, coloured glass. It’s remarkable (people are remarking on it everywhere) how little rubbish there is to be seen. I assume that this stretch has been cleaned out in the last thirty years. I never used to walk up this far when I lived in Guildford in the eighties.

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I walked upstream. Nothing I could see near the “Lord of the Rings” bridge encouraged me any more to jump in off there in the summer like the crazy kids do. There are a few pipes running water off the surrounding meadows which I didn’t know about before. And many of the trees on the opposite bank have their root systems exposed. The levels rise gently as you get nearer the lock but there’s lots of mud to be seen. I run along here regularly and it’s very odd to see how much higher the footpath is than the top of the water now.

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At St Catherine’s Lock, the lock is closed but the weir/sluice gates next to it are wide open and the water is rushing through. On the upstream side of the lock the river is full but not near flooding levels. I guess the lengthsmen along here are praying for no more rain for a bit.

I walked back again and towards town. A couple of helpful people told me you can’t get into town that way (not entirely true, you can take the footbridge by the Rowing Club and walk in that way). But I was more interested in the site of the drama. Once past the other weir (by the Rowing Club) the water levels drop dramatically, it looks like a dried up creek. There’s police tape across the path next to the fallen bridge, but it’s not blocked off completely and there were a few people down on the bit below the weir (where the picnic tables are) having a closer look.

A chap in hi-vis said to us “if you go up there, don’t go too close to the edge, you’ll see where it’s crumbling”. Which I took as implicit “permission” to go up there to the other side of the fence. I went as far as I thought was sensible. There are big cracks in the footpath. Another guy walked straight past me and went right up to the edge. At your own risk I suppose, but I think he went too close.

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The speculation on the river bank was about the ownership of the weir and therefore the responsibility for rebuilding. One voice said that it had been there since before 1900. Is is the National Trust, Environment Agency, Thames Water or Guildford Borough Council who will be responsible? Somebody must be… There were motorised gates on the weir which must have belonged to someone – you’d think that would point clearly to who should rebuild, but with these things that have evolved over many years, there’s no simple logic to it.

In any case there’s not going to be a clear way across there for a while, especially if we have a hard winter.

Redecentralize Conference

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I helped run the Redecentralize 2019 unconference in London last Friday.

“Everyone wants to know what happened, but nobody wants to write a report” is an exaggerated version of a familiar refrain at unconferences.  We used etherpads for people to be able make contemporaneous notes (although that was minorly scuppered by poor WiFi access).  So far, nearly a week later, we have 9 reports out of 26 sessions called.  That’s about one in three.  There’s an index of all the sessions called so you can see the range of conversations we had.

So far I’ve seen blog posts from Tantek Çelik and Piper Haywood.

The #redecentralize tag seems to pick up the most from Twitter but #rdc19 was also used.

Ryan put some sterling work into capturing what he could for live streamed video

If you were there and you haven’t blogged about it or added your thoughts to the notes, it’s never too late!

Overall, my take was that interoperability is seen as a more important focus than decentralization for its own sake.  There were conversations about standards, models, public policy and UX patterns.  There was concern in the room about how to deal with personal and group abuse effectively.  There was a healthy mix of light-hearted joking and serious talk about important issues.

There was also a pad of sign-ups to give you an idea of the sorts of people who came.

Back to the beginning

I’ve spent some time this afternoon working out where some of my earliest stuff on the web is.  It’s easy to forget now what it was like, at the turn of the century, to get a web site up and write stuff to it.

The Wayback Machine is a great help, but the archiving runs out for me around the middle of 2002.  My blogger.com profile says I joined that service in February of that year, but the first actual blogpost I can find is from Wednesday, April 23, 2003 .  I kinda remember that there were other posts on that blog – I remember signing up for Blogger in the internet cafe that used to be by Victoria Station (was it easyinternet?).  There’s a whole post to be written about why I called it “Living Dangerously” and there’s no reference to my name beyond my initials.  And I started writing and then deleted everything a few times before that April 2003 post.  There might have been more live at that time, but that’s the earliest one that was crawled.

Before that I seem to have tried out using ntlworld’s homepages as early as August 2002 (that’s who we had broadband from) but there’s nothing there except “My site is being overhauled”.

I must look up when I registered lloyddavis.co.uk – the earliest crawl is May 2002 and that points to pages that were on chilly-hippo.co.uk which provided free webspace.  Even though I had a permanent job at this point with pension and everything, I didn’t like the idea of paying for hosting!

In the period before this, from 1996, I didn’t feel able, as a public servant, to be running my own website and I think my contributions might be limited to things on mailing lists.

Until 1996 I did have a homepage on the University of Surrey Maths & Computing Sciences web-server, but I haven’t been able to retrieve anything from there yet.

 

Something to fall back on

When I was in the Sixth Form and applying for drama degrees, my headmaster invited me in for a chat one day.  He very much wanted to impress on me the folly of relying on the arts for a career.  Little did he know at the time that I was doing so little work on my A-levels that I wouldn’t have the grades to meet the offers I’d already got, let alone anything more academically stringent.

He felt (it was it first year there, he didn’t know me very well) I should have “something to fall back on”, do some acting while studying by all means, but do my degree in Modern Languages or Classics and then I’d have “another string to your bow”.  As you can tell, he wasn’t a very creative man himself, having used the two top clichés for headmasters wanting to discourage young artists.  I thought he was wrong then and I think he is now.  Having something to fall back on is a great strategy, but the something you fall back on needs to be something that won’t make you want to kill yourself!

I was thinking about this because I’ve recently been working on rebooting my facilitation practice.  I’ve had a lazy old time this year, I’ve done some nice work on unconferences for Mattereum and the OU and I organised my own SteemCampUK in April but this year I’ve mostly been writing (cough or thinking about writing) and getting a feel for the vibe in Guildford.  I realised that the way I think about my facilitation practice has been as a way of doing social art and as such it has tended to be at the edge and that tends to mean (I don’t think this is right by the way, but it’s how it is) Open Space with people who are pushing their own thinking to the edges.

And there’s just not enough of that to keep me stimulated.  I haven’t been turning down “ordinary” meeting work, but I’ve cultivated the stuff that’s more edgy.  And since I let go of Tuttle, that’s cut me off from all but a few (lovely, but few) people.  So some more structured, pre-planned, easier to sell to higher-ups, possibly with an explicit preferred outcome (!) is what I’m limbering up to fall back on (does that work?)

That means I’m looking at how I can get back to helping more people with more ordinary, everyday tasks of getting stuff done together.  Just being helpful again, not pushing people to their limits, but holding space for them to move forward in whatever it is that they’re trying to do.  That’s what I do well.  Give me a shout if I can help you.

I'm the founder of the Tuttle Club and fascinated by organisation. I enjoy making social art and building communities, if you'd like some help from me feel free to e-mail me: Lloyd dot Davis at Gmail dot Com or call +44 (0)79191 82825