Count Your Blessings #4 – Family Days Out

IMG_1876I love family days out. This one was with our usual family friend – Dave Brown. Dave was my Best Man and has been an integrated part of our family for nearly 20 years. Dave is 10 years older than Sue and I, but we share so much it makes absolutely no difference.

This family day was a walk around Tarn Hows, but starting from the Ambleside to Coniston road so we walked up the waterfalls to the Tarn. You just can’t beat the Lake District on a nice sunny day after rain, when the trees are green and the waterfalls are full. It’s beautiful (just look at the pictures). What's this tree doing here?

We are so fortunate to be so close to somewhere so beautiful. The strange thing was, it was actually made more beautiful by the damage caused by the storms over the winter. The Lake District lost over 500,000 trees apparently. The way the trees were laid out in the Tarn was dramatic. And of course it gave Jonathan (and me) something to climb on and go discovering. There is something deep in the human spirit that drives us to discover; sometimes that discovery goes smaller and smaller, and sometimes it goes bigger and bigger. As I get older I find that I will either do one or the other.IMG_1895

I’ve been setting myself a little test to make sure I take it all in. When we go out for a walk I try to make sure that I take as many small pictures as big ones. Get into the beauty of that little flower, or leaf, or insect, and at the same time realise how huge that sky is and how tall that tree is. Jonathan and Emily are naturals at this; one second they can be telling you about the shape of a cloud and the next showing you a newt in the water that they’ve just discovered. Emily even noticed that the ‘dust’ on the edge of the Tarn wasn’t dust at all – it was thousands of dead insects with their wings glistening in the sunlight.IMG_1885

The discovery hadn’t finished there though; we even managed to round the day off by discovering a little Italian Restaurant down a little alleyway in Bowness-on-Windermere (of all places).

I love days of discovery.

Count Your Blessings #3

Somewhere above Garstang

Friday evening was another fun one. In the Chastney household Friday’s are normally quite bitty with Jonathan and Emily in and out to dancing and Ignition (youth club at church) so Sue and I spend much of the evening being a taxi. This week though, there wasn’t any Ignition and Emily’s dancing finishes reasonably early. So this week we decided to have a bit of an adventure, break free and do something different. We are the type of people who revel in the simple things of life, so for us our adventure was to drive North of Preston to a little village called Scorton. In Scorton the little village shop is normally open quite late and serves home made Ice Cream. They really are fabulous. And the nice thing about Scorton is that it’s right on the edge of the Trough of Bowland where you can get some fabulous views of Morecombe Bay and the Lake District.

So we all pile into the car and go, take the 15 minute drive up to Scorton, arrive in the village centre, but oh dear, no, the village shop is shut. what are we going to do, we are all psyched up for a nice ice cream and the shop is shut. Well we couldn’t go without an ice cream could we. So we jump back into the car and continue North towards Lancaster. Eventually we find a little shop that is open and buy or long waited for ice cream. It wasn’t as good as the ones at Scorton but it was nice all the same. But what to do about a walk.

Well the nice thing about Lancaster is that it has a fabulous park for walking in, Williamson Park. It’s right on the top of a hill and has all sorts of places to discover. So off we set. We met friends from Garstang Free Methodist Church doing orienteering and chuckled a little at the ladies at a wedding reception who were struggling to walk in very high stilleto heals across some cobbles between the memorial and the toilets.

After a little while we discovered a rope swing. Brilliant. Being the master of the household it was my job to try it out first, safe enough. And then off Jonathan went, he’s a Scout so has seen it all before. And then it came to be Emily’s turn. Emily is a really plucky kid, but couldn’t hang onto the bar because the place where her hands needed to be was all sharp, but she was desperate, so what do we do. I thought about changing the stick that you hang on, but there didn’t seem a very sensible way of doing that. How about covering it up with a jumper or something, but again that didn’t work to well either. Eventually we hit on the idea that Emily could ride the rope swing on my back. It worked a treat. She got the buzz of riding the rope swing, and I got the buzz of riding it with her.

After all that excitement we were hungry again (not really but it’s a good excuse). Almost at the entrance to the park there is a little Chip Shop which was still open. So with a couple of bags of chips in hand we set off into the Trough of Bowland and find a fabulous place to park, with the wind blowing, young lambs in the field and a glorious view across Morecombe Bay.

For us, that is what adventure is all about; making memories that last a lifetime.

Search Vanity

Road to ImmeusIt’s great having a name like Graham Chastney, once you get noticed on the Internet you are search-able. In the last two months I have become discovered by all of the major Internet search engines and now you can go to any of them; type in Graham Chastney; and you get ME. It’s great. But not only am I there, I’m there at the top. Of course it would be easy to get big headed about that, but I didn’t choose my name I was given it. Still, it’s nice to exist.

Count Your Blessings #2

Jonathan on Spiral Stair Case

last night Jonathan and I went out for a little bit of a walk. I had been away early for a day trip down to Aldershot (on a plane thankfully) and needed to get a bit of fresh air. Sue was out leading a Network course and Emily was at the music festival, leaving Jonathan and myself. Of course we couldn’t leave straight away because there are always a few little jobs to do aren’t there. But having finished them we jumped into the car and drove up onto the Longridge Fells, hopefully to watch the sunset. Unfortunately we had to leave before it really got going because we need to be back in time for Emily.

In the car on the way back I put on a Cold Play CD (of all things) and the two of us sang along. It was great. me and my boy singing along together. It was a real time of bonding. It wasn’t all gushey, it was just two people who love each other doing something together. Jonathan is such a great kid.

Count Your Blessings #1

Emily (and Waterfall)

This week has been the Preston Schools Music Festival; Emily has had a part as a dancer – dressing up as a space-man. We went as a family on Wednesday nights. Emily was buzzing. She had this huge smile across here face and it was all she could do to not burst out giggling. The evening is held in the Guild Hall across three nights so he has been performing in front of several thousand people. They definitely got the best gig of the night dancing to a jazzed up version of the Star Wars them with everyone clapping along.

Priceless is the only word to describe an occasion like that. May even be one to bring up at some future suitably embarrassing occasion.

I love my kids they are great.

(Sorry, no pictures, we weren’t allowed)

An Approach to To-Do Lists that would even appeal to Unstructured Workers


43 Folders has this great little approach to dealing with a to-do list.

As I’ve said before, items can sometimes linger on your TODO list a lot longer than you’d like, and it can be tricky to understand exactly why that is in each case. I’m convinced cringing is often a factor.

Being that it’s Monday, and a lot of us are planning this week’s activities, why not join me in a modest exercise.

  1. Print out your TODO list (alphabetically, if possible)
  2. Read it over—beginning to end
  3. Go back and circle each item that makes you cringe, or that causes you some kind of existential angst
  4. Per cringe item, think honestly about why you’re freaked out about it. Seriously. What’s the hang-up? (Fear of failure? Dreading bad news? Angry you’re already way overdue?)
  5. Now, again, per cringe item, add a new TODO that will a) make the loathsome task less cringe-worthy, or b) just get the damned thing done
  6. Cross the original cringe items off your list
  7. Work immediately on the new, cringe-busting TODO

If you could do this for just one item on your TODO list today, wouldn’t you be a little better off? Is there a quick call you could make, a draft you could edit, an email you could return, or some other piddling 2-minute task that would plane some cringe off of your hated tasks?

Imagine if you did this today for five items on your list. Now imagine you began each Monday with a Cringe Bust. Might be a handy way to pick off old items and let some unnecessary anxiety out of your working week.

(For extra credit, find the item on your list that’s been making you cringe for the longest. Anybody else turning up items that have been inducing cringes for over a month? Ouch. I suck.)

I like this approach because it appeals to the semi-structured/unstructured Graham Chastney. I’m definitely not one of these people who can look as a to-do list and prioritise it and then work through in priority order. It just doesn’t appeal and it’s in that word that the true me is revealed. There are loads of other tasks that may be more important but that just isn’t enough, they have to appeal in some way or another. And I’m OK with a philosophy that defines one of the factors as the cringe factor. Of course I also assess my to-do lists from other appeal factors.

  • Is this task interesting?
  • Does this task have value (as defined by me of course)?
  • Is this task for someone I like working with (because I don’t suffer fools)?
  • What is the reward for this task (that is rewards to me of course)?
  • Do I know that in completing this task that I will just get another one given to me (so actually there isn’t any point in completing this one)?
  • Do I think that if I don’t do this task the reason t do it will just disappear (as so many do)?
  • What is the pain involved in not doing this task (because life isn’t without pain anyway)?
  • Is this task overdue yet (because I don’t need to worry about it if it isn’t)?

Yes I know this list should be something more like:

  • Is this task of value to the company?
  • Has this task been requested by my superior?

Tough, it doesn’t. Those two narrow factors just don’t appeal. And yes I really do believe that my employee should give me tasks that appeal (if they want the best out of me).