In a working week whose patterns are largely consistent only in their inconsistency, I have two regular punctuation marks. Both occur on Thursday. One is writing this blog, which I tend to do late Thursday afternoon (the fact that it arrives in people’s inboxes on a Friday morning is not, I’m afraid, a matter of design, but rather a happy accident; and how quickly the habit formed!). The second, later in the evening, is playing the piano with assorted fiddlers, mandolinists, guitarists, small pipers (the instruments, not the players) at the weekly session in my local pub on the banks of the river Tay.
To echo the point made by fellow writer Tim Rich in his excellent post from last week’s 66,000 Miles Per Hour, both are a kind of calisthenics, one for the brain and one for the soul, and I’ve come to depend on them to keep me in balance. When yesterday, towards the end of a punishing week, after a lightning strike had knocked out our local power and forced me to drive fifteen miles to the library in Perth in order to continue working, it looked for a little while as if I was going to have to forego both, something inside me protested insistently.
In the end it was the blog that gave way. Despite feeling utterly exhausted, I went to the pub, drank a pint of Guinness, played for an hour-and-a-half, and as a result had the first really good night’s sleep I’d had all week. Just as well, since I leave in a couple of hours’ time on the first leg of the journey to Hyderabad. On Monday I’m going to be running a workshop for an international group of 50 high-flyers on the first day of a year-long fast-track leadership programme; and this is the real source of the exhaustion.
I’m going with my friend and colleague Paul Pinson, who for many years ran his own Edinburgh-based theatre company, Boilerhouse. Paul is no stranger to moving large numbers of people about. In fact, our 50 are a mere scattering compared to some of the crowds he’s had marching about the streets of Edinburgh, the coastal dunes of Holland, and other places where he’s mounted site-specific productions. Nevertheless, the planning of this single day (which we’re then repeating with two other groups) has involved ten times more work than I’d ever imagined. I knew it was turning into a marathon when Paul said, ‘this is beginning to remind me why I eventually wound Boilerhouse down’.
But there’s a strong undercurrent of excitement that has carried us through each successive physical and mental barrier. We’re going to be taking these people on the first steps of a journey which, if we’re successful, will be much more significant to them than the physical one Paul and I are making from Scotland to India.
For me, meanwhile, it has been more a matter of gymnastics than calisthenics. But it does remind me how important is the balance between the two.
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