All Angels

Round & About

What better way to celebrate English Wine Week, June 15th to 23rd, than be raising a glass from one of our finest local vineyards.

All Angels vineyard sits in 31 acres of rolling Berkshire countryside around the small village of Enborne. Just five minutes from the centre of Newbury. A breath-taking world away from the hustle and bustle of the town. All Angels not only sells premium quality English Sparkling Wines! They also offer guided Tours & Tastings at the vineyard and Private & Corporate event experiences.

Boasting views over the site of the First Battle of Newbury, Beacon Hill, Watership Down, Highclere Castle and Coombe Hill, the vineyards and surrounding land hold an incredible history dating back to the 12th century. This includes several eras of civil and world wars and playing home to some of history’s most influential figures, such as Colonel Joyce, William Marshal and the 101st US Airborne.

The Darley family bought Church Farm in 2009. Inspired by friends with a successful vineyard much further north, and a confident analysis by one of the country’s leading viticultural consultancy firms – “Perfectly aligned, south-facing slopes of four to six degrees providing optimal sunlight exposure; free draining sandy loam over green sand with warming gravel and flint; ideal growing conditions for optimal grape ripening” – they began the business of growing grapes and producing wine.

Since then, Mark Darley has retired from his City job. Now focusing all his attention on refining the brand All Angels. Including by:
• An uncompromising dedication to outstanding quality in the vineyard, winery and bottle. From how the vines, and hand-selected grape varieties are nurtured and concentrated throughout the year. Using some of Britain’s best winemakers and facilities, to the elite Traditional Method of secondary fermentation in bottle.
• A firm belief in Single Vintage, Single Estate wines as the truest reflection of the year’s growing season and the vineyard’s land and ecology. Only grapes grown in their vineyards are used in All Angels wines.
• A deep-rooted ethos for sustainability and ensuring that the land and the ecosystem is improved year on year. This includes the creation of multiple wildlife ponds. A 5 acre wildflower meadow and a 250 tree orchard, amongst many other modern and traditional sustainability projects.
The tireless work ethic, dedication to detail and passion for stunning, premium quality, fine sparkling wine is now starting to pay off. The industry is finding out just how good the wines of All Angels are…
• In April, esteemed wine critic Matthew Jukes, published his thoughts in a recent article in Vineyard Magazine. “The wines are exemplary…The rare quality at All Angels is patience… All Angels deserves to be a household name…”
• Speaking of household names, Oz Clarke included All Angels Classic Cuvée 2014 Long Aged in his top three for the London Wine Fair in 2022 and in 2023 the most recent Classic Cuvée, the 2015 vintage won 3 prestigious industry awards: Gold at both the WineGB Awards 2023 and at the Drinks Business Global Sparkling Masters Awards 2023 and Best Wine for the Thames & Chilterns Region.
• The areas top Chefs’ are also supporting the growth of this local flavour sensation. Bringing All Angels into their listings and dishes to complement the outstanding cuisine they’re crafting. These include Tom Scade of The Vineyard Hotel Group, Henry Ireson of Damson Restaurant and MasterChef 2020 winner Thomas Frake, who has recently moved to the area.

You can find more information on All Angels at www.allangels.com, including information on buying their wines, how to join a Tour & Tasting or how to host a private event at the vineyards.

Football needs to open up

Round & About

Robbie James, has hung up microphone and presented his last Pompey Live radio show, but finds football leaves him with a sour taste

Football’s left me with an overarching sadness that a game with such a platform, can be closing itself off to so many potential fans.

Sure, rugby union still grapples with red trousers and tan brogues, cricket has begun its long journey away from elitism, and golf might still shout at you for not wearing a shirt and tie in the clubhouse; but football has more to sort than just awful haircuts.

I recently presented my final Pompey Live. Hosting a radio show across multiple platforms covering Portsmouth Football Club has been how I’ve spent most Saturdays for the last three winters. I’m proud of the many things we’ve achieved in that time, especially the increase in coverage of the women’s game and the number of female voices we’ve had on air.

It felt like the right time to leave. There’s other stuff I want to do (like eat cheese) and Portsmouth’s men and women won themselves promotion to the second tier of English football, so it felt like a natural moment to give it to someone else.

Having had some time to reflect, I feel sad and surprised at the sport as a whole.

My experience hosting that show was largely so much fun. Live sport is one of the world’s great thrills, and I will never get bored of broadcasting any kind of live sporting event. It also presented itself with some…be diplomatic Robbie, be diplomatic…interesting happenings.

When it was announced that I was going to become the new face of Pompey Live, the buzz quickly turned to eye rolls and many ‘’oh for fff’’ mutterings when photos of FOURTEEN year old me at a Southampton match emerged. A human with zero hobbies had found their way into my private Facebook account.

For context, Portsmouth and Southampton are notorious rivals, and have been for many a year. Thus ‘’he’s a Southampton fan!!!’’ (or a ‘’scummer’’, as is the noun chosen by Portsmouth fans…something I’ve been referred to more times than my actual name) became the overriding narrative, and quickly spiralled out of control.

This was an unfortunate start for everyone involved, but also the first glimpse I got into the devastating lack of empathy some football fans choose to possess. It was the catalyst which lit a fire that burned for my entire tenure, including false narratives, and some of the worst verbal abuse I could’ve ever imagined, including death threats to me and even more tragically, my colleagues.

I was a 14-year-old boy at a Southampton match. I loved sport. I also attended Portsmouth matches at that age. If someone offered me a ticket to a local game of tiddlywinks on a Wednesday evening I’d take it (providing there were walk on songs). Naturally, you cheer for the team that everyone else around you is supporting. Aside from some short spells of pretending to be invested in a team for the purposes of playground conversation, I’ve never really been devoted to any football team other than AFC Richmond (if you know, you know. If you don’t, watch Ted Lasso).

Football hides behind a giant wall with we’re the most popular sport in the world plastered across it. And it is. But it’s also the snobbiest sport. You must like this team if you live here but you can’t like that team if you live there. You mustn’t be happy for these people and if you are, you’re a traitor. You must take this rivalry seriously. Oh, and you must shout at the referee for doing their job. Is it any wonder that non-football fans respond with ‘’I can’t stand football’’ when asked for their take on the match last night!? It’s Marmite-esque, and I can see why. It doesn’t welcome you in and say ‘’here’s a fun thing you might like, consume it in any way you wish and don’t feel like it needs to be taken too seriously, we’re just here for a nice time’’. Complete nonsense.

The response to challenging any of the above seems to always be met with the same dispiriting line…that’s just football fans for you. Isn’t lambasting opposition players and fans maybe something we should look to cut out? Ah that’s just football fans for you. Why do we normalise derogatory chants towards the referee? Well that’s just football fans for you. Why, when you look around a stadium, do you struggle to set eyes on anyone but a white male? That’s just football fans for you. It’s not a welcoming environment for anyone who isn’t already in it.

I’ll also caveat the above by saying there are great people in football, and I had some lovely interactions. Not everyone who attends The Beautiful Game is there to abuse, or buy into football culture. I’m also aware my experience is nuanced, and Portsmouth still possesses an island mentality (yes, even in 2024 with the M27).

I’d need to make a lot of phone calls, read around 43 journals, and write a three hundred page book if I were to dissect tribalism and distinguish the way in which it’s weaved its way into football’s tapestry; but I can’t be bothered to do that and I have cheese to eat. In a very simple sense, it feels like this sport hasn’t even come close to catching up with the modern world, which I’m desperate for it to do.

Biodiversity Fun

Round & About

This May half term, The Lexicon has teamed up with garden and nature specialists Little Muddy Boots, to demystify the meaning of biodiversity for children, in a fun and engaging way.

From Friday, May 24 to Sunday, June 2, 2024, visitors to Bracknell town centre can embark on the Little Things Count trail, where they will discover fascinating facts about bugs, bees, blooms, birds, and butterflies.

In addition to the educational experience, participants have the opportunity to win two fabulous hampers from The Lexicon. On Tuesday, May 28, Berkshire Birds of Prey will grace The Lexicon with their majestic presence, offering visitors an unforgettable close encounter with these magnificent birds. Furthermore, CBBC’s Blue Peter Gardener, Skinny Jean Gardener, will lead a day filled with wildflower seed sowing, education, music, and fun on both Friday, May 31, and Saturday, June 1, 2024.

Little Muddy Boots will host a series of engaging workshops from May 28 to June 1, 2024, providing children with the chance to discover how small actions can make a significant impact on local wildlife. These workshops offer various activities, including exploring, planting, and crafting items such as bug hotels, wildflower seed bombs, and bird snacks to take home.

Sue Boor, head of marketing at The Lexicon, expresses hope that this fun and educational initiative will help children comprehend the crucial roles played by different forms of life in maintaining environmental health. Additionally, a dedicated web page featuring short educational videos and downloadable activity sheets has been created to further children’s learning about bugs, bees, blooms, birds, and butterflies.

For more information about Little Things Count and details on how to book for the different workshops please visit https://www.thelexiconbracknell.com/

Puppy Love Art Exhibition

Round & About

Self-taught artist & pet-lover Alison Molan’s first exhibition ‘Puppy Love’ runs at the Farnham Maltings café until Thursday 23rd May

Last year, self-taught artist & pet-lover Alison Molan received a letter from Queen Camilla for her Charlie tea towel and card she sent them for the Coronation. She says: “It was amazing to be recognised by the Queen and I was thrilled to have a reply.  Needless to say, I have framed it!”  

Her first exhibition Puppy Love runs at the Farnham Maltings café until Thursday 23rd May.  “I’m excited to be able to present prints of the first 19 pup portraits I’ve painted. I want to bring joy to people’s lives and I know that these prints will make people smile.

“I paint artworks that are original, playful, quirky and fun. They are from my collection of pup art which was inspired by our family pup, a rescued Lurcher, called Parker. He was an adorable mad hound and is much missed. I painted him in a style that is an homage to Frida Kahlo, who’s powerful and colourful art is truly inspiring. My designs are based on pups of family and friends. 

“I have always been creative but, until 2022, I only created work for myself or for family and friends.  I am totally self-taught and have developed my own style through trial and error! A few years after painting Parker, my daughter now owns her own pup and commissioned me to paint another portrait. From this, Pup Goes The Easel was born. Pup Goes The Easel is an homage to the pups we love.” 

Alison has dabbled with a variety of creative endeavours, using various mediums, over her life. However, it wasn’t until her later years that she found the confidence to paint for friends and family. Encouraged by them, she founded her pup art business in the summer of 2022 and began trading in October 2022. 

She adds: “I had my paintings professionally made into gallery quality, fine-art prints, luxury cards and a variety of other gifts including personalised pup ID tags. I sell my products on my website, at markets, through independent retailers, via Etsy and at exhibitions.

“All my pups have names and have a story to tell. They are painted with love in my sunny kitchen in the beautiful Surrey hills. I hope you can sense the unique characters of each pup and that they bring a smile to your face. They have been created to bring happiness and each pup is looking forward to being welcomed into your home.

“I use acrylic paints which have a vivid and bold quality which works well with my signature style of painting. The colours I choose are deliberately striking. The accessories and adornments I include on each pup are intended to be playful and humorous. I paint on high-quality canvas and art board.

“I think the title for this exhibition is self-explanatory.  However, it is also a poignant reference to my youthful adoration of Donny Osmond! I also paint commissions for people who want to capture the distinct essence of their own pups in a painting.” 

Alison can be contacted through her website www.pupgoestheeasel.com.

St George’s School Windsor Castle honoured

Round & About

Two nominations for the ‘Oscars of education’

St George’s School Windsor Castle is delighted to have been shortlisted for two national Tes Awards, dubbed the ‘Oscars of education’.

The school has been nominated in both the Independent School of the Year and Pupil Mental Health Initiative of the Year categories.

The Tes Schools Awards recognises the very best teachers and schools from both the state and independent sectors, across early years settings, primary and secondary.

St George’s School Windsor Castle is delighted to have been shortlisted for two national Tes Awards, dubbed the ‘Oscars of education’.

“In a truly exceptional few years, the school has become the first standalone prep school in the UK authorised to deliver the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme, in addition to becoming a Full Member of Round Square, achieving World Class School status in High Performance Learning and a Distinction in the Green Flag Award. The introduction of our Peer Listening programme has also paid significant dividends as part of an overarching strategy to ensure that while delivering our pioneering curriculum, we are also prioritising the positive mental health of our students.”

The shortlist was compiled by a panel of expert judges, including school leaders and experts. The schools and teachers they chose showcase the best of education across the sector within 21 award categories, covering all areas of school education.

Winners will be announced on 21st June at a gala awards night in London. To find the shortlist online, please visit www.tes.com/en-gb/schools-awards.

Further information about St George’s School Windsor Castle can be found at www.stgwindsor.org

Top 5 Solar Installers in Beaconsfield

Round & About

Every second, the sun generates 173,000 terawatts of solar energy – this is more than 10,000 times the Earth’s total energy use*. Without solar panels installed on your roof, this endless supply of free energy goes to waste.

With solar costs at an all-time low, now is a great time to take advantage of this free supply of energy at home. Are you keen to save on your monthly energy bills and become energy independent? Book one of the top MCS-certified solar installers in Beaconsfield, UK:

1. Soly

Soly is a leading solar installer in Beaconsfield, rated Excellent on Trustpilot. With over 10 years of experience, Soly offers free virtual consultations and cost-effective solar solutions that can help you save up to £1,300 per year on your energy bills. 

Take advantage of industry-leading warranties including 30-year solar panel, 25-year performance and 10-year workmanship warranties, with fantastic aftercare service beyond installation. Soly is MCS and HIES accredited, Enphase certified, and a Which? Trusted Trader.

If you buy before 30th April, Soly is offering £1,000 off. Book a free consultation today at Soly Energy and quote ‘Beaconsfield’ to claim this discount.

2. Elech Tech

Elech Tech is a family-run business based in Beaconsfield. Established in 2017, the company designs, supplies and installs solar panels, batteries and EV chargers for homes and businesses across Buckinghamshire. 

Elech Tech offers a 25-year product warranty and a 30-year performance warranty on solar panels, a 10-year warranty on batteries and a 25-year warranty on inverters. The installation comes with a standard two-year workmanship guarantee. The company is an MCS-certified and NAPIT-approved contractor.

3. HDS Solar

HDS Solar is a family-run electrical engineering business based in Marlow that supplies and installs solar panels and batteries. Established in 2010, the company services Marlow and Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire and surrounding areas. 

HDS Solar offers a 20 to 30-year manufacturer’s warranty on solar panels, a 10-year warranty on batteries and inverters and a 10-year workmanship warranty on all installations. The company is registered with NAPIT and is MCS-certified. 

4. Kimbletech

Kimbletech is a family-run solar company that supplies and installs solar panels, battery storage solutions, EV chargers and smart home technology. Based in High Wycombe, the company services Beaconsfield and all of Buckinghamshire. 

Established in 2011, Kimbletech offers a 25-year performance warranty as standard on solar panels and inverters and a 10 to 12-year warranty on batteries. They offer a 12-month solar output guarantee, ensuring that the system generates at least 90% of the estimated output in the first year after installation. The company is a NICEIC-approved contractor and MCS certified.

5. Solar Service Solutions

Solar Service Solutions services Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire and the surrounds. The company designs, supplies and installs solar panels, battery storage systems, solar thermal systems and more. 

Solar Service Solutions offers a 30-year warranty on solar panels and a five-year workmanship guarantee on installation for peace of mind. The company is MCS-certified and registered with the NICEIC. 

Finding the Best Solar Installers in Beaconsfield

Finding local solar installers you can trust in Beaconsfield doesn’t need to be difficult. There are plenty of certified solar installers and professional contractors to choose from. While the initial investment can be significant, the long-term benefits can outweigh the cost, with many homeowners making their money within eight years. 

The top solar installers are MCS-certified and offer high-quality products and long warranties for peace of mind. As your solar panels are a long-term investment (lasting up to 30 years), always look for companies that offer great after-care service beyond the installation period. 

Sources: https://sos.noaa.gov/catalog/live-programs/energy-on-a-sphere/

Top 5 Solar Installers in Oxford

Round & About

Did you know that the sun generates 173,000 terawatts of solar energy every second – over 10,000 times the Earth’s total energy consumption*? Without solar panels on your roof, all of this free energy from the sun goes to waste.

With solar costs at an all-time low, now is a great time to take advantage of this free energy supply at home. Are you keen to save on your monthly energy bills and become energy independent? Book one of the top MCS-certified solar installers in Oxford, UK: 

1. Soly

Soly is a leading solar installer, rated Excellent on Trustpilot. With over 10 years of experience, Soly offers free virtual consultations and cost-effective solar solutions that can help you save up to £1,300 per year on your energy bills. 

Take advantage of industry-leading warranties including 30-year solar panel, 25-year performance and 10-year workmanship warranties, with fantastic aftercare service beyond installation. Soly is MCS and HIES accredited, Enphase certified, and a Which? Trusted Trader.

If you buy before 30th April, Soly is offering £1,000 off. Book a free consultation today at Soly Energy and quote ‘Oxford’ to claim this discount.

2. Joju Solar

Joju Solar is an independent solar energy company based at the Old Music Hall in Oxford. The company has designed and installed thousands of solar systems across the UK, including solar panels, batteries and EV chargers.

Established in 2006, Joju Solar offers a 25-year product and performance warranty on solar panels, a 10-year warranty on batteries and a 12-year warranty on inverters. The installation comes with a workmanship guarantee for five years from the installation date. The company is MCS-certified. 

3. Next Generation Renewable Energy

Based in Oxford’s Osney Mead, Next Generation Renewable Energy (NGRE) is a local solar installer that provides solar panels, batteries and EV chargers in Oxfordshire and surrounding areas. 

The company offers a 20-year warranty on solar panels, a 10-year warranty on batteries and a 5-12-year warranty on inverters. The installation comes with a standard two-year workmanship guarantee. Next Generation Renewable Energy is MCS-certified for peace of mind.  

4. Cozy Homes Solutions

Based in Cowley, Cozy Homes Solutions has over 20 years of experience in the insulation industry and can provide valuable advice and expertise on how to navigate your solar journey. The company caters to all residential solar needs, including solar panels and battery storage systems. 

Cozy Homes Solutions offers a 20-year product and performance warranty on solar panels, a 10-year warranty on batteries, a 20-year warranty on inverters and a standard two-year workmanship guarantee on the installation. The company is NAPIT-registered and MCS-certified. 

5. Exeo Energy

Exeo Energy is a friendly, local solar company based in Osney Mead. With over 20 years of experience in the renewable energy industry and 10 years in the UK market, Exel Energy has designed and installed hundreds of solar solutions for homes across Oxford and Wales.

Exeo Energy offers a 25-year warranty on solar panels, a 10-year warranty on batteries, a 25-year warranty on inverters and a 10-year workmanship guarantee on the installation. The company is MCS-certified. 

Finding the Best Solar Installers in Oxford

Finding local solar installers you can trust in Oxford doesn’t need to be a burden. Plenty of certified contractors are available to provide expert advice on what’s best for your home, along with a fast, no-obligation quote. While the initial investment can be significant, the long-term benefits outweigh the cost, with the typical payback period being eight years or fewer. 

The top solar installers in Oxford are MCS-certified and offer high-quality products and long warranties for peace of mind. As your solar panels are a long-term investment (lasting up to 30 years), always look for companies that offer great after-care service beyond the installation period. 

Sources: https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2444/10-interesting-things-about-energy

Visit West Berks open studios

Round & About

Some favourite returning artists are joined by new faces for this year’s event

City Arts, Newbury are opening their doors once again for West Berkshire Open Studios as studio number 77.

Returning to the art hub with Open Studios 2024 is Hawksbury Print with her artwork inspired by British birds, Petra Geide-Barnes exhibiting her found object sculptures, Pots of Hope Susie brings her thrown pots, vases and bowls and ceramicist Rebecca Maynard with her hand built figures.

This year they are joined by five new artists to the scheme: black and white photographer Nick Collins, The Berkshire Printmaker shows her playful silkscreen prints, Georgina Bouzyk presents her large landscapes and finally with her jewellery in the City Arts cabinet in Kinsella Colwell Design.

During the Open Studios you will have a chance to meet the artists as they work in the City Arts workshop space and talk about their individual creative process. Pots of Hope Susie will be demonstrating how to throw a pot and you will have the chance to try your hand at silk screen printing with Sarah Martinez, the Berkshire Printmaker.

This free group exhibition is open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in May from 10 to 5pm. There is a cafe on site serving amazing coffee and home made cakes and dogs are more than welcome.

Check out the Open Studios website for more details about the artists and other Open Studios nearby. Artists at City Arts | Open Studios (open-studios.org.uk)

Guy Deacon: Running On Empty

Round & About

Guy Deacon CBE will be appearing at Oxford Literary Festival this Friday (22nd March) to talk about his forthcoming book and Channel 4 Documentary – Running on Empty.

Guy’s story is truly inspiring; the former British Army officer he drove from his home in the UK to Cape Town in South Africa ten years after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

The journey fulfilled a childhood dream to drive across Africa, whilst also raising awareness of Parkinson’s Disease which is heavily stigmatised in Africa where it is often linked to witchcraft and black magic, leaving sufferers ostracised by their communities. 

Parkinson’s Disease is the fastest-growing neurodegenerative illness worldwide and has no known cause and no cure. By 2040, more than 13 million people will be living with PD – a quarter of them in Africa where the disease is little understood. On his journey Guy met with Parkinson’s sufferers in almost all the countries he travelled through and learnt what daily life was like for those sufferers that he met, but first he had to get there.

There are never more than a handful of vehicles a year attempting to drive from the North African coast to Cape Town in South Africa. Some never complete the journey. Conflict in Libya, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Ethiopia and Cameroon, make any journey exceptionally dangerous. In central Africa, road conditions, particularly in the rainy season make the going difficult and often treacherous. Add illegal checkpoints, extortion, contaminated fuel and lack of services and this was to be a huge undertaking.

Guy first set off in November 2019 making it as far as Sierra Leone in March 2020 when the COVID 19 epidemic struck. The borders were closed and after being stuck in Sierra Leone with no way out, Guy was evacuated by the British Government on an emergency relief flight leaving his trusty van behind. Many adventurers have setbacks on their journeys but for Guy, with each passing month that he waited in the UK for travel restrictions to lift, his Parkinson’s would advance and his mobility would deteriorate. By the time he restarted the journey two years later in March 2022 his condition had deteriorated significantly.

Parkinson’s disease affects mobility so the simplest tasks from emptying pockets, to tying up shoelaces became herculean for Guy. The day to day challenges of living in Africa, the condition of the roads and living in a relatively small space would be challenging to anyone let alone a Parkinson’s sufferer who struggles to move limbs and has to take every task incredibly slowly.

Several times throughout the 12 month journey Guy came close to giving up.  The challenge left him both physically and mentally exhausted and as the days wore on, he found it more and more difficult to communicate and began feeling increasingly isolated and alone. He had a phone to keep in touch with friends and family, but with his limited dexterity it was often easier not to.  In the end it was the kindness of strangers that restored his faith and spurred him on in his darkest hours.

There are countless examples of things going wrong and strangers stepping in to help and offering him a bed for the night. But each time Guy thought that the latest setback would be the end of the road and he would have to give up, there was always someone who would step in to help, a stranger reaching out to help him in his hour of need.

Throughout the 18,000 mile journey Guy kept a video diary and was joined on four occasions by a documentary maker. This has resulted in 85 hours of footage and several thousand photographs of this incredible adventure through the heart of Africa which will be made into a 1 hour documentary for Channel 4 to be released in Spring 2024.

Guy was supported throughout his journey by The Cure Parkinson’s Trust a charity set up to find a cure for Parkinson’s as well as Parkinson’s Africa, whose mission is to raise awareness and empower those with Parkinson’s to make informed decisions about their own health.

At the festival, guy will be speaking with Matthew Stadlen to recount his incredible journey, crossing Europe and the full length of Africa, which took the former army officer and 60 year old father of two over 3 years to complete, see him drive 18,000 miles, across 25 countries, with 5 breakdowns, as well as one emergency evacuation from Sierra Leone during Covid, whilst taking 3650 prescription pills to help manage his Parkinson’s.

Further information on Guy’s event at Oxford Literature Festival can be found here.

Competitive busyness doesn’t feel healthy

Round & About

Robbie James says “we’re all busy” but don’t use that as an excuse when there’s more to it

We’re fast approaching spring. Daffodils are blooming (although they bloomed early this year according to Monty Don), we’re unsure when the clocks change (31st March), and the BRITs are behind us (I love Raye). I’m meeting this sense of optimism with a rant about busyness. Not necessarily being busy, but telling me about it. Hope you’re ok with being my sounding board?

I know you’re busy. You know how I know? Because we’re all busy. We are all trying to cope with a cost of living crisis whilst ensuring we’ve done our steps for the day, posted our perfectly poached eggs on Instagram, charged our Apple Watch, got our kids a fancy dress outfit for a ninth birthday party on Saturday, ordered a HelloFresh, and kept up with the day-by-day depressing news. It’s a lot.

There was a study conducted by Harvard Business School which discovered that responding with ‘’sorry I’m just too busy’’ to a social or professional invitation was the least trustworthy response you could give.

I also don’t know when it became a thing to be passively-aggressively competitive when it comes to how busy we are and who is the most tired; but it can’t be excellent for our already drained brains.

Unless you were one of our old friends, a key worker during the pandemic, the one positive from those few years of sadness was that it allowed us to slow down because we literally had nothing to do. We were forced to not be in a rush. A Monday consisting of two walks and a game of Monopoly would be categorised as a ‘hectic day’.

I’m not saying we’re not allowed to be busy. As a terrible saying goes…whatever floats your boat. I do worry about obligatory busyness though. I’m definitely not the only one who forces themselves to be busy when they don’t have to be. As a man who has weekdays off, I often don’t really enjoy them. The world isn’t in ‘fun mode’ like it is at the weekend, and I feel guilty laying in or being in the pub by three o’clock.

My second caveat is that being career driven is great, and we live in a country where we’re able to have loads of opportunities, but let’s normalise being busy because it’s no longer a talking point. It’s a completely standard way of living which offers nothing particularly interesting to a conversation. It should be more of a talking point if you’re not busy.

It’s also another sign that we still struggle to open up to one another, especially men. How often have we bought our Guinness to feel masculine (I do actually love Guinness but I’m trying to make a point), nestled ourselves into the corner of the pub and began with…’’Alright mate? How’s things?’’…followed by, ’’yeah good, just busy mate, so busy at work’’. Sigh. It’s like a gentle way of saying you’re drained, exhausted, and maybe a bit sad, without actually saying it. Imagine if you actually did admit to feeling that way…you’d be on minus lad points. So there you go. Oh, actually whilst I’m here venting about everything (I’ve enjoyed today’s therapy session, thank you), let’s stop with saying that everything is an ‘’ick’’. It’s a conditioning tool to close ourselves off to certain people and I think that’s sad and unkind. Ok ok, I’m done now. I’ll write about something ultra positive next month like my new CrossFit plan