I have written these #nurture posts for the last few years, reflecting on the year which is ending and looking ahead to the year to come. The piece I wrote this time last year is here, for info. I find this a really useful way of reflecting on my experiences and processing my learning.
2019 has been a positive year in many respects. I feel very fortunate to have the friendships, the support and the opportunities I currently have.
For the first time we had our main holiday in January: a beach and city break in Thailand. We had a fantastic time, swimming in our own pool in 30 degrees at 11pm when it was -7 degrees in the UK. John enjoyed exploring both locations, taking photographs and completing a Thai cooking course. I spent my time reading lots of great fiction while soaking up the sun, and in the evenings we found some good bars and restaurants. We loved the twin site experience. These are the views from our villa in Phuket and from our room in the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok:
Sadly, my elder brother Alan’s wife, Brenda, died after a lengthy illness. I’ve appreciated spending more time with Alan this year, and with Brenda’s wider family. This is a picture of the couple on their wedding day, with mum:
This has been another year of reunions and gatherings, including a lunch we hosted in March where we were joined by a number of friends I worked with when I was a deputy in Nottingham, between 1995 and 2000, and with whom I am delighted still to be in touch today:
I very much appreciate the time I now have to meet up with friends from all the stages of my life for coffee, lunch or a meal in the evening. This is definitely one of the great things about being in the post-career phase of my life!
I have continued to have a range of interesting professional opportunities, too, including travelling to the British School in The Hague over Easter weekend to speak at a conference there. The weather was hot! John came with me and we stayed for two extra nights, visiting the tulip fields near Amsterdam, the gardens at Keukenhof, and the beach at Scheveningen, where we enjoyed drinks and a meal at a bar on the beach as the sun went down.
I am very pleased to remain in touch with current and former staff and students of the school where I was privileged to be head of for ten years, and in May John and I went to London for an alumnae drinks reception, where it was a joy to catch up with impressive women whom I remember as promising young girls!
Our next holiday was in Marseille in June. We love France, and cities, and this was a place we had never visited before. Earlier in the year I had read about the Frioul archipelago, a twenty minute boat trip from the main city harbour, and we went there early one morning for breakfast and a walk around the quiet cliffs and coves. It was beautiful and tranquil – amazing to realise we were only twenty minutes away from France’s second city, a bustling, colourful, lively and multi-cultural centre – with excellent cuisine, which is always a significant part of our holiday.
One of the highlights of this year was completing a TEDx talk in Norwich in July. It was a challenge I enjoyed. The theme was ‘Look Again’, and I focussed on taking a second look at what we, and those around us, may be capable of. The text of the presentation is here: and a link to the ten minute video is here. I can strongly recommend grasping the opportunity to give a TEDx talk, should it arise. It was an energising experience!
I love the summer, and this August was full of pleasurable experiences. We celebrated Julie Hopkinson’s 50th birthday with a trip for five of us to enjoy a wonderful tasting menu at Hambleton Hall in Rutland, an overnight stay and a walk in the sunshine next morning. This is the view from the terrace as we sipped our pre-dinner drinks:
And we enjoyed two weddings: one of our goddaughters, Katy, married Nick in Dorchester, and a former head girl of mine, Lucy, married Akshay in Bedford, in a twin Anglican and Indian ceremony:
And we’ve relished the growth and development of the next generation! This is our great-niece Phoebe on her first day of school in September, and goddaughter Sally (a two-year old bridesmaid at our wedding in 1988) with her baby son Robin, born this year and enjoying his first Christmas in this photograph:
We have invested in our home this year, including purchasing an additional four acre plot at the bottom of our paddock and having a new drive built on the other side of the house. We love where we live, and developing it definitely improves the quality of our lives. These pictures show the drive before and after the landscapers moved in:
John came with me to the HMC heads’ conference in London in October. We stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel at the O2, visited the Greenwich Observatory and saw the Meridian; had the conference service in the Old Royal Naval College Chapel and the conference dinner in the National Maritime Museum, and on the last night visited Ronnie Scott’s, which we really enjoyed:
My leadership consultancy work has taken me all over the place this year. I have talked about supporting and developing aspiring and serving leaders in a variety of UK locations, including Oxford, Durham, Stratford, Norwich, Dunblane, Sheffield, Stafford, Fleetwood, Birmingham and multiple trips to London, and John has accompanied me on many of these visits. In November I spoke at a conference for primary assistant and deputy heads in Ealing, organised by Clare Rees and speaking alongside Ross Morrison McGill.
I look forward to more events and opportunities in the year ahead, though I am, gradually, slowing down my professional activity and working on succession planning. When it gets to the stage where I consider I have done enough of this, I can at least point schools and organisations in the direction of someone else who may be able to help them.
And this brings us to the end of the year. John and I went back to St Andrews again for Christmas – and once more the sun shone in a clear blue sky. We walked on the beach, made the most of the hotel pool, jacuzzi, steam room and sauna, and enjoyed an excellent meal on Christmas Day evening at the clubhouse on the cliffs which you can see in this picture, taken from our hotel room on Christmas morning:
and New Year was celebrated with three different groups of friends: with women I went to school with; those I worked with when I was Head of Sixth Form in Gainsborough; and those I know from my time as a deputy head in Nottingham.
In addition to all the above John and I have managed to visit the David Lloyd gym and pool at Burton Waters in Lincoln on average four or five times a week throughout 2019, which we are very pleased about. I still enjoy my choral singing, with regular concerts with the Gainsborough Choral Society and occasional ‘Come and Sing’ days with other groups in different locations. We enjoy films, trips to the theatre or to see a livestreamed production, and I read as much of ever. And in 2020….
Back in March, when the #WomenEd book ‘10% Braver’ came out (to which I had contributed a chapter on ‘Get the job you dream of’) we were asked to record a short video saying what we had done when we were 10% braver, and what we WOULD do if we were 10% braver still. I recorded and tweeted this. At the #WomenEd unconference in Sheffield in October 2019, I reaffirmed the pledge ‘I will try to write a novel’, and I want to give more time to fiction writing in the year ahead. This winter I have written a short story, and I will experiment with further short stories and hope that I will be able to develop one of my ideas to novel length. So my #oneword2020 will be WRITE. I have already written a blog post about this, and a link to the short story I have completed can be found here. I’d appreciate any comments or constructive feedback!
We have booked holidays next year in Tallinn in Estonia, and Valencia in Spain. I have work which will take me to Glasgow and to Belfast – and John will come with me each time for an extended break – plus various speaking commitments across England. I plan to continue to enjoy the company of family, friends and my professional contacts. I wish you all a very Happy New Year, and a year ahead which is full of the things which bring you joy.
Photo credits: John Berry