Trains. (Quite delayed).

I found this post in an old Evernote folder, written in July 2015. It marked a moment, and it amused me, so I thought I would share it… even if it is over a year late.

It is strange to sit in Ipswich station looking at the train that was the 17:50 from Liverpool Street and to think how familiar I was with that service and its regulars. To see City people in smart suits and dresses and to think of the dress in my wardrobe that hasn’t been worn for nearly two years. Or to recall the bustle and fuss of Liv St, the dashes into Tesco or M&S for dinner or traingin… the quieter platforms after nights out…the busy platforms during delays and the scary evenings of wondering if I will ever get home.

(this isn’t the actual train, but one very like it…)

That was my life, the routine of season tickets Platform 3 for the 0810 platform 10 for the 1750 running along the river or in the Barbican at lunch; city pubs and pizza expresses for drinks and dinner. The frustrations of a late night at work missing out on things at home… being home in the dark – not seeing the first flowers on my window boxes until the weekend – the bliss of a sunny Saturday in a flat I only see in the dark during the week. All the knowledge of trains and train times.

Feels funny now. How can I be too busy to do stuff, when I used to do Stuff and fit in 45 hours of commuting and office time?

I don’t miss that life; for all the stresses of Westcott it feels like it is right for where I am. I think I miss having nicer clothes – perhaps it is time to spend a while checking what I have and what I wear. Shoes, as ever, being the problem.

I feel more disconnected from that than I have done previously. A good thing. It would be hard to always be grieving for what has been left behind. I still do miss the flat sometimes but I don’t wake up at Westcott wondering where I am; my rooms feel like Home; the daylight bulbs have dispelled the gloom. Just seeing the space with afternoon sun has helped change how it feels. St Leonards is a place I will be welcome, but it is no longer the place I long to be for comfort and for familiarity.

Perhaps Westcott has done the job of being that place of transition… growing me from the person in the pews to the potential leader; the painful part of last year was in feeling adrift and friendless in the place – rootless – and now I am preparing to leave there. Last (ish) term of responsibilities. After Christmas it’s head down, write stuff. Plan exit. Focus on the end. I am a leaver not a newcomer. It’s interesting that I’m called that right from the start of the year – it helps, I think, because I really am.

Last things: Last day at work

Another major milestone today. My last as Newsletter Manager at Linex Systems, which ended with a lovely lunch in the restaurant at St Paul’s with my colleague Fiona, before home to a nap, a lesson in incense burning, and Evening Prayer (not at the same time).

I didn’t have a particularly long to-do list today, so I took the opportunity of a sunny morning to meander through the Barbican on my way to work. In a previous job I used to have time to loiter or sit and eat lunch by the lake (or lakes), but for the last year I’ve mainly speeded my way along the highwalks on the way into the office. Lovely to spend a moment on the bridge pondering and enjoying the sunshine.

I walked back to Liverpool Street Station from St Paul’s and it seemed that at every single turn there was a bit of the City that had a memory. Pubs where I’d met friends, celebrated new jobs or babies, or supported in their grief. Three churches where I’d either been to Parish Clerks’ Evensongs; a Lent course; lunchtime services or had just sat and prayed in.  The Guildhall and the City Business Library. The Corney & Barrow we went to after the first Alpha course I helped lead. The hardest pub in the City to find – the Old Dr Butler’s Head… Interesting alleyways that weave the fabric of the City together, that were a delight to explore in the first months of commuting. Tower 42, where I had my first proper law firm contract in my MSc year and the Pret I waited in before my first morning there. London Wall – a dull road, to be honest – used to be a run route for me. Broadgate Tower, with the lovely nth floor library enquiry desk and amazing views of London. Then watching the City skyline recede from the train (in unromantic noise of a screaming baby and yelling toddler, it, after all, is still the school holidays)  pointing at buildings I’ve worked in, those that I have seen built as the landscape has changed. Crikey.

It’s not like I’m never going back to London, but it will be with a different perspective on things. Recalibrating what constitutes an affordable drink, for a start! And I’ll be an amateur commuter soon, once the season ticket expires.

Last things: Last ParkRun

I love, love, love ParkRun. Free, timed, 5k runs happen all over the country every Saturday morning. There are all sorts of runners – all ages and abilities and experience levels. Colchester Castle ParkRun has been a highlight and a priority in my week since it started last Spring.

I won’t say I have loved every single run – my first ever DNF was a ParkRun when I just ran out of energy; and the hills have seemed ridiculously tough at times. I’m starting to think more and more that my PB of 29:14 was measurement error when I’m struggling now to finish under 31minutes (I know… I remember when 28 minutes was my normal 5k time… age, cake, beer and laziness taking their toll there).

However, it’s a fantastic thing for our town. Go and join it. It’s great. I’ve now done the last one before I move. Another little milestone reached.


Last things: How Evensong has holpen

Sunday 27th was the last St Leonard’s Evensong in the current version of this life. In August, churches join together and we become itinerant Evensongers – St Leonard’s is on the Sunday of Greenbelt, so I’ll miss it; and 7th September is an evening Eucharist. I only figured that one out during the course of Sunday afternoon so it didn’t really sink in until I was there.

There will be other Evensongs, of course. But it was at St Leonard’s that I first learnt the service, first discovered it as a wonderful, peaceful, week-punctuating way of worshipping. Hiding at the back with tears streaming the first few times I was there. Picking a seat where I could leave if I needed to. Learning the phrases, the words that have been said by so many for so long. Finding a little oasis of calm before Monday morning loomed large. Finding myself one of the regulars, then a sidesperson or reader – becoming part of the crowd rather than the one on the edge who arrived at 6.28 and was gone by 7.33pm. Now, if I’m anywhere near Viv, it’s quite likely I won’t get through the service without finding something funny and all those tiny jokes are terribly hard to leave behind. (The Doctor Who collect, for example “…and that both our hearts may be set to obey thy commandments…” or the prayer to say thank you for beer “…we bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life…”)

Of course with Evensong there has been the PEP tradition – post-Evensong pint. For two years or so with my friend Andrew, losing to him at backgammon in the Odd One Out and trying to make sense of our slightly wobbly lives. And for the past few years with Teresa, lurking in the corner of the Hospital Arms and putting the world to rights. ‘Going to the pub’ as an occupation is not about to stop any time soon, I hope.

I think on the whole I am glad the ‘last Evensong’ arrived fairly early on in the proceedings, because I have a chance to let it go, be thankful and move on to the next last thing. They’re a bit spaced out, which in a way is nice, as I can tackle them one at a time. I’ve been pondering the last Evensong all week – given it its due place in the Letting Go process.

Letting Go: My last SLA Europe event

ECCA; Division; Chapter; Outlook; Click U; Open House; Leadership; Dance Party; Board meeting; SLA HQ…just some of the vocabulary that I’ve learned since winning an ECCA (Early Career Conference Award) that sent me to SLA (Special Libraries Association) Conference in Washington, D.C. in 2009. Until that point, I knew very little about the organisation. Then I was one of four award recipients that year and I discovered exactly what SLA was all about. I’ve been to four conferences and one Leadership Summit, meeting a truly amazing bunch of people along the way. I’ve served on chapter and division boards, mentored a new ECCA at his first conference, written for publications, followed Twitter chats and generally had my professional life changed by that one award application.

Last night was SLA Europe’s summer party, held at Barber Surgeon’s Hall. It was a splendid venue, with great company, tasty food and chilled wine – thank you to the sponsors (Dow Jones and Integreon) and those who organised the evening.

I think everyone now knows that in September I will be moving to Westcott House in Cambridge. Hence SLA Europe’s party yesterday was a lovely way to be able to lay a marker in the transition from librarian to ordinand. The discernment process – the time taken for me and the Church to decide if I really am called to ‘this vicar thing’ – has been the reason I haven’t returned to SLA Europe’s Board as I expected I would this year. Which means that I don’t have any real responsibilities to hand over – just enthusiasm for an organisation that has given me so many opportunities in the past few years, and a good number of friends too. I was amused – and touched – by the number of people who corrected me last night. “No,” they said, “you’re not training to be a vicar – you’ll be training to be a bishop!” I heard a lot of positive comments about the Synod vote this week – colleagues had noticed what had been going on.

Just to really make it a collision of emotions, an email with lots of new joiner information arrived from Westcott as I was on my way to the event. The City world is already starting to feel a bit alien – I thought for quite a long time about what to wear yesterday now the smart uniform is no longer default (and I went with comfortable-in-hot-weather rather than super-smart in the end). The library gang I leave behind will carry on with the same issues – the need for professional recognition; threats of job cuts and outsourcing; changing technology; budgets, training, development. They’ll need support, a peer community and development opportunities: the kind of thing that SLA Europe does well.
So, thank you, SLA, for what you have given me and the ways I’ve been privileged to serve my colleagues.