Wednesday, 29 September 2010

What mid-life crisis?

I noticed in todays newspaper that more and more thirty somethings are suffering from mid-life crises.

I don't get it.

Six months ago now I was made redundant from my job working for a local authority. To face the prospect of being out of work for the first time since leaving college was, I suppose, quite frightening.

I worried how would the bills get paid and would I lose all of my self worth? In reality walking out of work on my final day with no new job to go to was a terrifying prospect.

And yet, still out of work, something marvellous has happened since that day.

The past six months have been, without question, the best of my life and the reason is simple. I have realised the mind-blowing importance of my family, friends and community.

For the first time I have got to spend a lot of time with my children and you know what? They are wonderful.

Whether it has been watching my eldest son starting to cycle to school on his own, or helping my daughter with her homework and her pride when she gets a 'well done' from her teacher or enjoying the chats with my youngest when I put him to bed at night. It is all amazing.

I went in to my sons class recently to pick him up at the end of the day. He and his classmates had been doing a piece of work about the person they admire most and Regan had done his work about me. To say I welled up is somewhat of an understatement, but would he have done the same piece before I started spending so much time with him? I doubt it.

Spending more time with my wife, Clare, has also been reinvigorating and I have no doubt has lead to us having a much more fulfilling, loving and happy marriage. Clare has recently started a new, and demanding, job and the time I have spent at home as given me the opportunity to support her as much as she deserves and I am more than content to do this.

Likewise, for the first time ever we got to spend the whole of the long summer holidays as a family. It is true that we didn't go on any expensive holidays this year (a mobile home in The Netherlands on a very cold Easter was our substitute for a summer holiday) but the time we spent on day trips, picnics and visiting stately homes more than made up for that.

My time away from a rat-race job has also given me the chance to realise what a contribution we can make in our local communities. I have been lucky enough to help out at a couple of local schools in one capacity or another and seeing the difference a person can make there easily makes up for the terror of being out of work.

As for the future, who knows? Like anyone else we continue to worry about paying bills but what I do know for certain is this. These months out of work have been ones that I can happily say I will never forget.

Anyway, now back to the job search. I have to get a job if for no other reason that we did mention to the children that we would take them to Disneyworld when I got one. The only problem is that my youngest is now asking me at least five times a day 'Have you got that job yet Daddy?'

So as to those who say mid-life crises are on the up I say make the most of those people and things that are under your nose. They are more valuable than you can ever imagine.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Very proud to be from Thringstone

Back in the summer of 1973 I was brought from the maternity unit of Leicester Royal Infirmary and taken to what would become my home for the next 25 years of my life on Main Street in Thringstone.

In those 25 years there appeared to me to be very little change in the village.

I can vividly remember daily walks to and from Thringstone Primary School, my regular drink (when I was slightly older) on a Thursday night at the Queens Head after badminton at the Community Centre, and crossing the road on what seemed like a daily basis to Foxons shop for either a bar of chocolate or a comic (my weekly edition of 'Match' was my favourite).

So vivid are my memories of Foxons I am still slightly perturbed now when I go down Main Street and realise I can't buy a copy of the Dandy (I was never a Beano man) but I could have my roots done if I wanted.

When I left Thringstone to get married, I didn't exactly move far - only to Whitwick, in some ways I failed to notice that the village was changing.

First one pub closed, and then almost overnight all of them were gone. The newsagent shut. Even Thringstone Aquatics was gone.

The only constant seems to be Ruby's (where I still go for my fabulous fish and chips) but even Michael and Sonia have reduced trading hours. Long gone are the times when you could call in for a post-pub portion of chips and battered sausage. There is, after all, no point in staying open that late when there are no post-pub customers left to serve.

Yet, even from this position of many long-treasured family businesses closing over the past few years there has been a reawakening of community spirit in the village. Much of this has been down to the success of what was initially a small but now growing number of dedicated people who formed the 'Friends of Thringstone' group.

The stated aims of the Friend of Thringstone are to '...improve the environment of Thringstone and to preserve and promote its history for the benefit of residents and visitors'. And boy, they are doing a cracking job!

Take a walk around the village and you will see how much pride there is. Have a look at the flower beds and other planting schemes. Ponder on the historic blue plaques. Stroll down to Bob's Closs (it was always massively overgrown when I was a kid). Have a read of some of the excellent local history booklets that have been produced....and this is only the tip of the iceberg.

The thing that particularly strikes me when I am in Thringstone is the lack of litter. This is in no small part down to the regular litter picks that Friend of Thringstone organise and everyone who live or visits the village should be thankful for this.

If you want to know more about the Friends of Thringstone take a look at their comprehensive website at http://thringstone.110mb.com/ . You will see I am doing them a huge disservice when I mention only a few of the many things they have accomplished.

OK, the village still hasn't got a pub on The Green and some of the businesses have closed but due to the fantastic work of groups like Friends of Thringstone I am very proud to say that's where I'm from.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

I feel like I have accomplished an ambition!

How excited am I?

I have just taken the dog for a sunny but slightly chilly Saturday morning walk (and very nice it was too - the fields are just giving enough to walk on swiftly but not at that muddy state which we will get next month).

As usual I took my ipod and listened to yesterdays edition of the Mark Kermode film podcast on Radio 5.

Anyway, to cut a long story relatively short, I caught a few minutes of the live program yesterday when I was picking up the children from school. During my short period of listening I sent what I thought was a witty and informed text to the show when Mark and Simon were discussing an upcoming live recording at the Phoenix Cinema, Finchley.

Moving forward to this morning I was ecstatic when not only did Simon Mayo read out the text from 'Leon in Coalville', but the two gods of radio then went on to have a (very) brief discussion on the topic and gave me a second namecheck! I actually gave a small, and some would describe girly, scream of delight as I was walking along the footpath.

I cannot quantify just how much I enjoy the Kermode program and I feel like a long held ambition has been accomplished and as soon as I got home I made Clare listen to the excerpt three times.

Two things...

Firstly, I do understand how pathetic this makes me sound. Although I would strongly recommend the podcast to anyone who enjoys film.

Secondly, Clare has now banished me to my computer until I calm down...

Friday, 24 September 2010

Getting Excited!

I must confess I am getting very excited about the prospect of standing in the 2011 District Council elections.

Over the past 4 years we have seen a period of stagnation under the current Conservative administration at North West Leicestershire.

Just what has been done since May 2007 to help the district? We have seen Coalville town centre deteriorate, uncertainty about building thousands of new houses and village life being eroded through the closure of post offices and pubs.

There is so much that the Council can do to enhance the community and instead all we have seen is torpor.

I have no doubt we can make a real difference in 2011.

Watch this space....