Well, thank f–k that horrible month is over


…because emotionally it crushed me.

Augusts have a habit of doing this, whether I’m in work or out of work. But this one was on a level the likes I’ve not seen in ages.

The biggest blows were probably not getting shortlisted for jobs I had applied for that I & those around me felt I should have done. (In particular those who had flagged up the vacancies with ‘this has got your name written on it). But then I have to remind myself of the people who have sent off dozens if not hundreds of applications only to get no responses or just rejections.

I’m more held back by my health – not being able to work full time. It’s heartbreaking to see vacancies I’m qualified for but can’t manage full time hours for. Even yesterday I lost an entire day to sleep – yet am still not sure what it was that drove me to stay in bed asleep for all of that time. Hence waiting impatiently for this sleep clinic referral.

“So…what’s this autumn going to be like?”

Whatever we make of it.

Finding some part-time regular work to pay for the next stages of my community action work is my main priority at the moment. A mix of equipment upgrades and, if all goes well, producing some new community action videos with a variety of people in front of camera. One of the jobs I went for could have involved making these as part of the role. But hey – never mind. We’ll have to do it the hard way.

Accordingly, I went back through my 2014 manifesto of which I can’t think many people read through. (I blame my rubbish presentation – who has time to read all that?!) Hence putting it into a single PDF at 2014 Manifesto Full – all twenty-something pages of it. I still think there’s lots of good ideas hidden in there – perhaps too many for its own good? One of the few original ideas I’ve had that’s built up a life of its own is Volunteer for Cambridge – something that Anna Malan has made a reality. (Moving from ideas into delivery stage is something I’ve struggled with, so welcome her work in delivering the first fair & continuing with it on an annual basis).

The continual fight with depression

Underneath all of this, of course, is the bubbling narrative of failure. I failed. I let every one down. I was supposed to be kicking ass and instead I was quietly dying, all the systems going off line, giving up, giving in, all the fight sucked out of me by cognitive absence.

The above is by Louise Kidney, who I first met not long after I left the civil service. Post-election, I’ve felt similar. I still am. There have been days where I have simply lost the will to fight – to even get out of the house. The repeated Fridays with another failed job application. Yet, just like those refugees, I just have to keep trying – their plight being much more fraught with danger & uncertainty than mine.

One of the tricky bits is doing the jigsaw of picking courses & classes that don’t at the same time shut off opportunities further down the line…while at the same time not paralysing myself & choosing nothing. For example this course on public services looks interesting but I’m not in a position to do a full-time anything, whether course or employment. A far cry from a decade ago when I was doing a full-time job and up to 15 hours of volunteering a week.

Fighting the same community action battles over & over again

One of the big themes of my community action is changing the systems, processes & actions of local institutions. For example, it’s one thing persuading councillors to visit a local secondary school (see https://adragonsbestfriend.wordpress.com/2014/04/11/parkside-coleridge-students-unlock-democracy-in-cambridge/) but quite another to persuade the council to incorporate such visits into their annual calendar of events.

Is social media in & around Cambridge reaching a plateau?

I ask because I’ve not seen a significant change in how our city uses social media for social action over the past two years. For example I’ve not seen a significant increase in the number of people engaging with local councillors on Twitter. I’m not seeing any improvement in how local public institutions are using Facebook. I’m not seeing much in terms of meetup groups making the link between a desire for an improved city and events/actions that reach out beyond their community groups to make it so. What we do know is that in some sectors we have a cultural challenge.

See the August 2015 newsletter at http://www.cambridgecvs.org.uk/reports/4 on P5 which was an emotional body blow given the number of hours I have given for free to Cambridge Online/Net-squared to help local groups learn about social media.

In which direction is my approach going to evolve into?

This I don’t know. It depends on who I meet and the impact they have on me. The glimmer of hope is that the general election result has got more people interested in local democracy to the extent we’ll see new, fresh faces in campaigns, in parties and in slates of candidates for the 2016 local council elections. As I found out in 2014, simply by being different & new you can get a fair amount of coverage for whatever issues you want to talk about. Will parties and candidates have the confidence to try new approaches to extend the profiles of those standing for election?

At the same time, there’s also a responsibility on us as citizens. Democracy isn’t baby food – it’s not something you get spoon-fed. It’s a participatory activity which involves us as individuals taking actions – and responsibility for those actions. As local Conservative activists often tell me, the people get the democracy they deserve. Four in ten people in Cambridge didn’t vote in the 2015 local elections. How we change this for 2020…starts now.


One thought on “Well, thank f–k that horrible month is over

  1. Hope September does bring better health and better job/course results. I find that a lot of things go and feel dead over August (at best) with people away and the hot sticky weather sapping energy. So hopefully there’s an improvement!

    On the engagement/social media/politics front, I think there is a plateau, and not just in Cambridge. And that brings an ennui, especially as we thought the world was changing….and it’s actually pretty much the same.

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