Orchids, spring-cleaning and raving: Bring on the “Free Range” life!

The legendary Winston Hazel and friend at work

The legendary Winston Hazel and friend at work

I finished my full-time job on Friday. I hadn’t visualised what it was going to be like. Back in March, when I told my manager that I wanted to take the redundancy option, the end of April seemed a very long time away. That was the day before the big snow-storm and as you can tell from my other blog posts, a lot has happened. My notice period has gone remarkably quickly and I’ve found out a lot about myself and other people.

Firstly, I’ve been really pleased with the reaction of my colleagues at work. No one was negative about my decision. In fact, the comments were all along the lines of “well done”, “brave decision”, “go for it!”, “I wish I could escape too!” As this was a job I’d landed in “by accident” and I’d never worked for a large corporate company, I’d made lots of assumptions about my colleagues and their outlook and never felt like I “fitted in”. Of course, I was wrong. As I started to reveal my plans for my career change, I realised that many colleagues had fantastic hidden talents and interests. Here’s a small selection: one of my colleagues is a country music DJ and one of the founders of internet radio station http://www.2country.net/ The lady who is taking over most of my old responsibilities brought me gifts of amazing watercress, grown on her family’s farm. There are lots of talented musicians in the company too. One of the colleagues I’ve worked with  closely over the last five years, leads a sporty, sociable lifestyle and volunteers for charities while living with Epilepsy. And in my last half an hour, I had a great conversation with the IT guy I was talking to on the phone and he writes about science and technology in his own blog: http://hattix.co.uk/blog/. People are amazing.

My last day was lovely. I was in a great mood and got loads of loose ends tied up. I brought in a cake I’d made (chocolate fridge cake – see my Food page for the recipe), and I was presented with some lovely cards, an orchid and a lovely bottle of bubbly. My colleagues had even checked that it was suitable for vegans! It was great to leave my job with a smile on my face; with hugs and well-wishers. My manager gave me a lift home and we had a brilliant, philosophical chat. It might not have been the job I wanted to do for life, but it’s given me skills and the discipline I’m going to need to run a business.

Yesterday, I  started cleaning the house from top to bottom. I sorted out two bin-bags of clothes and took them to the charity shop. I’ve dropped at least one dress size since last year and I also wanted to get rid of the more boring items from my work wardrobe. Our bedroom was also suffocated by a thick layer of dust, so a determined vacuuming session was also needed. After I’d struggled up the hill with the bin-bags, I felt a sense of relief: I’m finally letting go of the baggage that’s dominated my life for the past few years. In the past few weeks, I’ve been putting myself forward for opportunities, giving myself chances and being determined to make my new “portfolio” career work. This has been combined with the total exhaustion of commuting 100 miles every day, so imagine what I can achieve with more time and energy! My diary for next week has already got some very interesting things in it, and I’ve got a long list of “things to do”.

And last night, after my partner had gone to bed, I headed out for a night of partying with Angelina, a friend I’ve known for 9 years, when we met at work. (She also teaches dance – see The Dance of Life” blog post!) We were meeting other friends and heading to a Kabal party. Kabal parties aren’t some kind of religious cult, just a very DIY style club-night, in the true spirit of the old warehouse parties, but all legal and “above board”. Since our first Kabal party, Angelina and I have always got in free, in return for taking photos of the festivities and sending them to the party organisers. This was the first Kabal party in over a year and we had a great time, dancing for hours in the dark womb of an old industrial building in Attercliffe, and being startled that dawn had arrived. Not bad going, considering that I’d nodded off at 10pm the previous night! I woke up this afternoon feeling tired, but alive and happy and raring to go!

Last night, we had a great time with the wonderful Kweku of Ghana, who I hope to do some work with in the future! Another example of my amazingly cheeky new attitude! http://www.kogmusic.co.uk/

Here’s an interview with legendary Sheffield DJ Winston Hazel, who is always the mainstay of Kabal parties. http://www.djhistory.com/forum/winston-hazel-forgemasters-interview


The dance of life

Dancing at Shefftival, August 2013. I'm on the left!

Dancing at Shefftival, August 2013. I’m on the left!

I’ve been learning to dance for six years. I was encouraged to go to a bellydancing class with a friend. At first, this seemed like an enormous step, even though I considered myself confident in other ways at the time.

Me? Dance? But I can’t dance (unless I’ve had a few drinks)! But I went along to the bellydancing class at a local sports centre. In my first class, I was so nervous and stood right at the back of the room. But I loved it. After a few classes, I was eagerly standing at the front, keenly watching every move of the dance teacher and trying to master every hip-drop and shimmy. I adored the long, flowing skirts and jangling coin-belts and soon realised that there was no going back. I couldn’t just bop around on the dance-floor any more – whatever I was dancing to, I had to try out new moves and fancy foot-work. As I realised that I had the ability to learn dance routines, I discovered that dancing is a wonderful work-out for the brain as well as for the body.

I’m forever thankful to the friend who dragged me along to the class, and also my bellydancing teacher, Cis Heaviside, one of the Boomshanka bellydancers in Sheffield. Full figured and proud to be a goth, Cis explained her own journey in learning to dance, as well as the cultural history of bellydancing and the moves. For example, the Saidi Hop move was originally danced by men, and the women learned it to “take the Mick” out of them! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLmEFBw5ZVQ

The friend who encouraged me to start dancing is the wonderful Angelina Abel, who started the Mulembas D’Africa dance school http://www.myspace.com/mulembasdafrica  in Sheffield and I’m proud to say that I’m one of the most enthusiastic members of her dancing tribe. Thanks to both teachers, I’ve taken part in many dance performances and I’m guaranteed to get up on the dance floor even if sober!

On Wednesday, we had our first dance class for a couple of months. It was brilliant to see fellow dance-class friends, including two people who had returned after becoming mothers. We practised our moves and I realised that Angelina is now blossoming into a wonderful teacher, encouraging, inspiring and providing a safe, friendly environment to dance, learn and most importantly to laugh. We started working on our new routine. As usual, I struggled with some of the moves and felt frustrated with myself and a little ashamed! I’d positioned myself right at the front and at one stage I was thinking: “What possessed me to dance at the front of the class, when I’m clearly the most rubbish dancer in here? I can’t even work our whether it’s my left or right arm I’m supposed to be moving!” But I took a deep breath and focussed on learning the moves at my own pace, without comparing myself with anyone else. It worked, and I was soon enjoying myself again.

At the end of the class, we took it in turns to perform the dance routine in front of the others and I realised that lots of other people were using the wrong arm or leg. After all, we’d been dancing these steps for less  than an hour. It didn’t matter. It’s all about learning. It’s important to make mistakes; to learn; laugh at ourselves; get out of breath; get sweaty and wake the next morning with a serene mind and aching muscles. The most important thing is to have fun and to give new things a go.

A few years ago, I thought that I had two left feet and no dance ability at all. I would have never guessed that by 2013, I’d have danced several times on a stage, in front of a paying audience. And that could apply to anything: if you’re scared of learning a new skills, try it anyway, have fun and see what happens!

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