The A Word: What is Normal?

Normality is a paved road, its comfortable to walk but no flowers grow on it.

As we tentatively begin our return to normal it feels wonderful to me and this week has been much better than last, especially seeing our family.   I found the social distancing challenging as, in our old world I would have dished out hugs and kisses galore, but we all managed and were thankful for being able to visit.   I’ve also had a costa coffee, shopped for furniture, and booked a visit to RHS Wisley who have opened their gardens, so all is good.

However, the meme above made me think about the changes many of us made to our behaviour during lockdown, some of which I hope will stick around.

Readers of my blog will know that walking is a big part of my life as the exercise helps with my Ankylosing Spondylitis.  Normally, whether walking in our home County of Surrey or other parts of the UK we see very few families out enjoying the fresh air, even in school holidays.  However, the lockdown seems to have changed people’s behaviour.  It makes me smile to see families out walking, cycling, and swimming in the rivers like I did growing up.  I’ve seen families taking picnics together, exercising together and, overall, living a much healthier, lower cost lifestyle.   The amazing weather has certainly helped but I’m so hoping this behaviour doesn’t change when the material world comes back to distract us.

I accept that people have had more time to appreciate the countryside, working from home has improved work/life balance.  Whilst I like the idea of a better work/life balance, in a previous blog I discussed the disadvantages of working from home full time.  This week I want to talk about business travel as I guess the closest you can get to a business trip now is taking your laptop from the home office to the kitchen.  Business travel has completely ground to a halt, and no one is sure when or if it will be back.

Companies are using video conferencing facilities such as Zoom or BlueJeans and it works well.  I’ve been on a number of Zoom calls myself, both personal and business and used this technology long before the lockdown started.  Interestingly I’ve also learnt about video voicemail options like Loom, providing the expressiveness of video with the convenience of messaging.  All of which is great news for the environment, especially as today is World Environment Day 2020, but is technology providing a viable replacement to face to face meetings?  Is the human connection important enough for business trips to resume?

According to a Harvard Business Review, a face-to-face meeting is 34 times more successful than written communication which makes complete sense to me.   Their research concluded that a video call comes closer, but it’s still not as effective.  In my opinion, the business trip will win in the end because people still want human interaction, it’s a business style that I don’t think will change.  That said, if Covid-19 has taught us anything, every decision we make needs to be considered in light of the new way of working available to us.

Personally, I’ve had some of my best adventures on business trips, many of my stories I’ll save for another day.  I often travelled alone and, as I didn’t want to spend nights away from home I would try and keep my European trips to one day.  I would take the earliest flight out of Gatwick with a late return.  Early and late flights coupled with a full day of client meetings was a tough gig.  However, seeing many European cities and experiencing life outside the UK was rewarding.   

On a rare overnight trip to Frankfurt, I had arrived late in the evening in preparation for an 8am meeting the following morning.  I would usually take room service, but fancied venturing out for dinner and armed with my book I set off from my hotel to find a nice restaurant.  After walking for about 5 minutes, a police car pulled up alongside and asked where I was headed.  Dressed in my smart business suit and high heels I advised him that I was off out for dinner.  “Not that way” he kindly informed me smiling, you’re heading to Bahnhofsviertel, Frankfurt’s redlight district 😊.  I’ve never been good at reading street maps!

Moving swiftly on, last week I said that my Ankylosing Spondylitis had been particularly bad.  Its still painful now and this week my gym workouts have focused on “core strength”.

Core exercises train the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips, and abdomen.  This leads to better balance and stability and most physical activities depend on stable core muscles.  The extensive walking we do around the coastal paths and in the hills depends on having a strong core too thereby avoiding losing balance and falling.  Our core muscles play a huge role in everyday activities, from getting out of bed to bending over but, most importantly, for me, they help with posture and keep me standing up straight.

Our core muscles are the base of support for our entire body.   They completely surround and support the spine and pelvis and connect the upper body and lower body, effectively transferring forces from one to the other.  Sometimes, like now, I hurt too much to do my full core workout and I have to limit specific areas of my regime, but I have other gentler exercises that take over when this is the case.  I’m starting to feel better and my pain level is reducing; thank you so much for all the lovely messages I received last week after writing about my flare-up.  Its rare for me to admit pain as I don’t handle sympathy well, but the messages were great 😊…

Lastly, I want to talk about the horrific death of George Floyd.  Like me, many people will have struggled to watch the shocking video of his death.  Racism is such a huge issue and too big a challenge to address by one individual person.  However, we need action rather than words and collectively we can make a difference.  If every parent and every grandparent took the advice of Nelson Mandela and applied it to their family, it would be a start.

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”   

Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

We must all take responsibility to educate our children and grandchildren by following the actions and words in this great man.

Until next time, stay safe and #StayAlert

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