Job centre to juggler: a new year story

A new year is full of new beginnings. Some are voluntary, exciting new goals, like taking up a new hobby or exercise regime, that we hope to enjoy so much it will become part of a better, new, permanent routine.

But some new beginnings happen without us volunteering for them. Maybe it’s at home, and maybe it’s at work. I’m sure a qualified life coach could tell you much more about home life changes, and how they can happen to you while you observe passively, or how you can embrace them and create a new life for yourself.

But work changes can be ground-crumbling too, even though health, family and friends (not necessarily in that order!) are really far more important in the grand scale of things. Threats to our jobs can take away our rudder, like an electric storm wrecking a ship, leaving it bobbing about, directionless. Sadly, too many of you reading this will know just what I’m talking about, and right now.

But it doesn’t have to be that way; it is possible to take control and steer yourself back on course, even if it turns out to be a different one from where you imagined you’d be going. At times like this, I have a few friends and acquaintances who inspire me. It took a Christmas card and a new example to remind me how change can also help break the mould in a fantastic way. (If you are reading this and you recognise yourself here, yes it’s YOU who are the inspiration, and I hope you don’t mind me sharing your story to share some hope along with it.)

  • From market research to cake maker – fantastic, enthusiastic Facebook posts show what a happy experience this change has been.
  • From financial services to theatre – leading to fulfilling a lifelong ambition to perform with the acclaimed Royal Shakespeare Company on their famous stage at Stratford.
  • Best of all, from job centre to juggler! Well, from Unemployment Benefit Office anyway. Back in the early 90’s, there was only one thing worse than having to ‘sign on’ fortnightly in one of those places, and it was having to work in one, five long days a week. (I know from experience, having spent far longer than I cared to in BOTH situations.) In my circle of friends at the time was a man who happened to work in a neighbouring UBO, and we had occasional ‘sharing the pain’ chats. He was keen to follow his dream to a more entertaining career, but was scared to take the leap. Eventually he did, and now he is a juggler and stilt walker, appearing at local events providing street entertainment, and he also runs a circus school.

Now that’s how to break the mould in style!

So if you have choices this New Year, remember there is an option to take an unconventional route, and it can work. Is it time for you to find your inner juggler?

There are lots of great websites to help you consider your options, set your goals, and work out how to get there. Try this article, particularly for women considering changing career direction:



When was your best, first mince pie?

There’s something really special about the first mince pie of every Christmas season, don’t you think? It doesn’t always have to be a particularly nice one; it’s the atmosphere surrounding it that makes it such a special event, and for me it means that I’ve finally got over the “Bah, humbug” spirit of too much tinsel, too early, in too many odd places.

This year my first mince pie was at Hengistbury Head, along with a hot cup of coffee to warm me up after a walk through frosty crispness with my family. Fantastic! And I knew that December had begun and I was going to start feeling Christmassy.

But my best, first mince pie, was one from my childhood – in fact, I was lucky enough for it to have been a series of best firsts. When I was little my parents were regular churchgoers, and they supported a very small, rural village church, with an even smaller congregation. It was a farming community, and the family of three brothers and a sister who lived next door to the church were the spine of the community, and the backbone of that church’s congregation, performing nearly all its vital functions apart from taking the services themselves.

Every year, that family held a carol singing gathering in their generous sitting room, warmed by a large log fire as well as by the strength of belief radiating from the friends seated around it. Part way through the proceedings, the sister of that family would produce a piled plateful of warm mince pies. The pastry melted in your mouth as it can only do when rolled with care in a home kitchen, and the mincemeat was sweet and spicy.

When you get a best first like this, you sometimes don’t realise exactly how special it is until later; even if you appreciate it and savour the moment (along with the pie!) its true value sometimes only becomes apparent later. I was uniquely lucky in this regard with my best first mince pies, because I got to enjoy them as a child, but I also enjoyed one during my first Christmas holiday after I had spent 3 months away from home. The relief from home sickness and the warmth of the familiar hearth, combined into heady sweetness with those mince pies – I can’t tell you how much that little pastry parcel meant to me that year!

Things are different in that community now, and my life is very different. My children don’t have the same Christmas traditions, of course, and they don’t quite get my fondness for mince pies! Perhaps I need to start practising my pastry making skills and start a new family tradition?

So, tell me, when was your best, first mince pie…..?