Only Connect

poppyIs it indulgent to review a year when the change and developments started in 2014 are only partially completed? Probably. But, to quote E.M Forster from A Room with a View, “Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice”.

In May I found myself in France with a group of fabulous British and French women – brought together by a project aiming to support women’s continuing professional development (WPCD). It was brilliant to meet a diverse range of women – from young company directors anxious about how to offer their staff opportunities and support without impacting the bottom line; to the stretched middle-agers confronted with demands from children and elderly parents and changing health of their partners AND yearning for self-fulfilment; to older women full of vim and vigour, not prepared to be consigned to pre-determined old people activities. Objectively it is easy to chronicle each similarity and cultural context, wryly observing traditional leitmotifs. But it’s not so easy when you know each person – with all the idiosyncrasies that make her unique.

By being in Caen and walking on the Normandy beach just before the commemoration of the D-day landings I was aware of the shadows left by the men killed there. Each of my sons is on an age where they could have been fighting in 1944. We are lucky.

Endeavouring to take on the challenges of chance and location (and, frankly, taking my own advice to seek employment prospects in IT), I found myself from September at the UEA studying computing. Fair to say it’s not like a being an undergraduate in the 1980s. For a start there’s all these computers…  A doctor friend of mine assures me that the process of learning is not only critical to prevent my descent into decrepitude – but also one that gets better with practice. “It’s like a muscle and the more of a work-out all the little synapses in your brain get the easier it will be to learn more.” I truly hope he is right. It is re-assuring because my progress feel painfully slow – I am hoping for a tortoise-style race win come next summer. The hares will all have made it through the finish posts months earlier. Writing computer code is a skill like any other, you just need to stick at it (OOPS! My unconscious supportive self has slipped out – better than my conscious unsupportive self that alternates between anguish and despair… “You are useless!” and “Why did you think this was a good idea?” being the two favourite mantras of that unhelpful cow).

In November the issue of war and its futility once again had prime place in many thoughts. Seas of poppies extended from the Tower of London to primary schools and beyond. While it is undoubtedly crucial to respect and remember the sacrifices of previous generations, as I reflect on the ceramic poppy made by my daughter I have a strong sense that we have to ensure our young have the confidence and ambition not to be constrained by history. We really are lucky in so many ways, but with such luck comes responsibility to make the most of opportunity. We need to help our young, and ourselves, imagine and build a better future.  A further quote from E. M Forster helps me conclude my thoughts – “Only connect… only connect and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.”