Stop. #Hammocktime

I think its fair to say, it’s been a fairly full-on few weeks, both personally and professionally. Whilst the week days are naturally ruled by the green hourly markers of the outlook calendar shuttling me to this place and that place via planes, trains and automobiles (I’ve been trying to carve out some weekly thinking time lately – I’m slowly getting there, although its accurate to say that I’m still not sure I’d be able to keep up without the godsend of 1:15 on the train at the start and end of each day) recently the weekends have also felt like they have been similarly task driven, with a rhythm of cleaning, project work and general life admin and tasks becoming something of a two day mountain to level in order that one might greet the next week in a state of blank slate. Add to this that we’re thinking (only thinking) of moving house, (idly spurred on by the design-space click-bait that is Rightmove – when one has downloaded the app, its hard to escape it…) and all of a sudden all the maintenance and decorating that I should have done has sprung to the fore. Saturdays and Sundays of late have consequently and invariably been spent with some kind of brush/ roller/ screwdriver/ drill in hand as I sort out those niggles that one learns to live with/ ignore/ become oblivious to, but which would immediately catch the eye of the discerning buyer. You know you’re in deep when the staff at B&Q call out to you by name and point you to your own private parking space…

The last task on the glitch list, aside some very minor skirting board work, was the back garden. It’s a beautiful little afternoon sun-trap patio garden with raised beds and quiet trees surrounding. It’s a hushed little haven when all tidy, and we’ve planted a lot in there to delight – fox gloves, bleeding hearts, roses and a curly leafed weeping willow. As I speak there’s a rose arriving beautifully late to the party, lazily debating whether to burst or not…There’s also the soft scent of flowering raspberry and ferns to accompany a sit on the bench in the evening sun, all played against the droning backdrop of a hedge that attracts bumble bees. A garden for all senses…

As I said all of this is possible, of course, when the garden is sorted. However, due to the pace of things of late, the garden has been less than sorted. You know that scene in Predator when the crack team of soldiers realise they’re in a world of hurt and try to hack their way through impenetrable undergrowth and twisting vines? That.

And so this Saturday was spent restoring order. And at the end of it after two trips to the recycling centre, we had a garden again. But even the act of clearing and sweeping, spurred on by the tantalising promise of relaxing amongst tamed nature was somehow reward in and of itself – an intrinsically motivating act, an welcome weekend antidote to the weekday mindset.

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 I think that’s what I’m talking about here; its not necessarily the recognition that relaxation is required, but that (for me at least – others will differ) an act of relaxation comes from simply looking in another direction; deliberately, knowingly and consciously taking ones focus and mind into a different space in order to nurture the soul.

After I’d finished the garden, I set up our hammock and just swung for a while. If the luxury is afforded, I think it’s a crime to be indoors on a weekend with the weather we’ve just had in the UK. This is a rare other space for me – doing absolutely nothing does not come naturally. I’m trying to practice.

With that other mindset in mind, today (Sunday), wrapped safely in the unashamedly smug knowledge that all tasks were complete, I went off on an early morning run up into the peak district – only about 7 miles, but what a treat. I didn’t see another soul and the sun was already warm with no breeze as I hit the top of the Goyt Valley. A privilege to have such a beautiful vista all to myself.

And then friends phoned to see if I wanted to go wild swimming. We found an idyllic spot near Wildboarclough – a pool deep enough to dive into at the bottom of a waterfall – much fun was had.

And now here I am, back in the garden, full of sun and reflecting on a nourishing weekend which I know will stand me in good stead in the next week; I’m certain that looking away from the weekday foci actually increases productivity and focus in the weekday shenanigans.

So on that note, and with the evening sun on my face, I can feel the lilting swing of the hammock calling for more practice.

Stop. #hammocktime

See you next week.

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Author: samgrogan

I am many sided; Pro Vice-Chancellor Student Experience at Salford University, Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, driven Tough Mudder runner, and a lover of the outdoors. I live in the heart of the beautiful Peak District with my wife and our pets. On weekends, you'll find me out in the countryside with the dog, running or walking up a hill, or typically cooking for friends (I'm getting better, so they say) My role at Salford is one I cherish. I'm one of the fortunate few who wake up excited about the day ahead. It's really not work when it's this much fun. As part of the Vice-Chancellor's Executive Team I work alongside a gifted and dedicated team of creative educationalists passionate about being better tomorrow than we are today. As PVC SE at Salford I hold executive responsibility for both the assurance of quality and standards of our institutional academic portfolio, and its strategic direction and character. Intertwined with this facet of my role, I am responsible for strategic leadership and enhancement of the wider student experience and the development of a distinctive Salford learning environment. My overall purpose, driven by these two key parts of my role, is to develop a bold, playful learning landscape at Salford which delivers holistic sustainable success, preparing our students for life. I'm fascinated by how people learn, and how we might collectively make that experience result in a profound expansion of personal and professional horizons and an extension of possibilities for all parties involved. My greatest reward comes from seeing thresholds crossed, barriers broken, new habits formed and changes made. To this end, I'm also endlessly absorbed in considering how we might develop better, more useful ways of integrating the digital landscape and other technologies, emerging and present, into the act of learning. I think we're just beginning - a brave new world awaits... My background is in performance - Before undertaking my PhD and before spending the first half of my university career as a lecturer, programme leader and head of department, in my early career I acted, danced and made theatre across the world. This ten year experience continues to be fundamental in shaping the way I think about teaching and learning. At its best I see it as a facilitated journey of discovery, play, risk and adventure anchored in 'reflective doing'. Not 'knowing' in this context is often a signal that a useful path is being trodden - Thinking on its own is just rehearsal...

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