The Day I’ll Never Forget  –  #21daysof Writing – Day 9

Today’s topic was set by Vicki Mallows.  I took a slight liberty as Vicki asked for the shift/ day I’ll never forget… it’s gone in a slightly different direction.

Do I have a day I’ll never forget? A whole day?

I could say I do… write that day… but mostly I really don’t. I have parts of days, fragments and moments. My memory plays tricks – re-conditioning the past in accordance with present information.

Days that are “meant” to be memorable –  Wedding Day, Graduation, Significant Birthday etc – are sometimes less memorable than Normal Days Where Good Stuff Happened – a long walk in the hills on a sunny Saturday. Swimming in the North Sea in April this year. Looking out over Barcelona from the outdoor public swimming pool (the one where Kylie filmed her “Slow” video)  on a hot summer day (OK – so not “normal” but you get the idea)

Then there are parts of days seared into my memory for more awful reasons – the news of my father dying came at the very end of a perfectly “normal” day. I was out at a dinner thing in Edinburgh – I remember the phonecall, the earth shifting under my feet, my world dropping away – forever altered and not even beginning to understand that in the moment.

Memory is such an important part of who we are, and is so bloody unreliable. No wonder life gets complicated, sometimes. We are creatures who live in moments, responding to the Present based on stuff we have learned in the Past, reaching toward a desired Future-state, sometimes without even knowing we desire it. We are wonderful and strange, noble and occasionally unwise. We do our best. We base many of our choices and decisions on memory and story-of-myself, and these are so ludicrously fluid and fickle – we fool ourselves that we are rational, free-willed…. Sometimes? We really aren’t.

Remembering and forgetting takes on a different resonance when you live with or witness something like dementia, particularly in a loved one. The slow dismantling of a life, the fading of Things Remembered, piece by piece is the painful and galling consequence of a brain atrophying. And it is cruel beyond words. As the person loses their memories – they lose themselves. My mother was diagnosed at 58 with early onset. I don’t remember the day of the diagnosis, because by the day it came, we knew it was something akin to this. Months of her making multiple phonecalls on the same night, saying the same thing. Car parked-and-lost countless times. Blank looks over afternoon tea as a well-known story was told. Unable to find the bloody word for the crossword puzzle, despite knowing the answer. Her terror at what was happening to her. Our woeful inadequacy in knowing what to do, how to deal… I have forgotten much of that time – these are things I can’t bear to remember, to dwell on… intolerable memories wrapped carefully up with a Warning Sticker on them. Open with caution. Only now, when friends are facing similar things with their, more elderly, parents do I return to those memories.. and then I can empathise, ask questions, understand the complete hopelessness they feel – that sense of ineptitude, of impotence.

Remembering is important.

Remembering how to remember without derailing yourself is also important.

It takes practice.

So the day I’ll never forget doesn’t exist. .. and I quite like that. I quite like that my inner-hardrive only stores certain things… the stuff that’s in there can serve me well. The memories I’ve made, the memories life has forced me to make… these are the very foundations of who I am and what I can choose. I’m pretty happy with that, to be honest.

And… all of this has led to my “deathbed” philosophy – the one that goes: when I’m just about to shuffle off, I want to look back (because I’m refusing to have dementia. It sucks. I’ve unilaterally decided it’s not for me) and go: Good Memories. Life Lived. These are my Unforgettable things.

Yes. I think that works.



Ouch. This one… this one got me as I wrote it.

I rarely, if ever talk about my mothers dementia. In part it’s out of respect for my family. I am not the only one who lives with it. The story is only partially mine. In part it’s just so loaded and emotive….I’ve done my own “work” around the illness and the loss and the grief – but you start talking about it & others also want to talk…which is fair… and sometimes, selfishly, it’s hard enough working with it.  It’s a self-preservation thing.

Sometimes it’s good to talk. Sometimes, not so much.

I’ve debated whether to publish… basically because stuff will come back and I’m not sure I want what comes from unwrapping all of this. I’m a little scared.

Mum is now 76 and has been in a care home for a good few years. As someone who has survived with dementia for around 18 years, she is unusual…and now part of a Stirling University study into communication for advanced dementia patients. Her illness means we have, as a family, lived through every non-cheery emotion known to humans. We have mainlined guilt, anger, anxiety, sadness….and, like millions of others who have had dementia in their lives – somehow you continue to live…. If you are anything like me, it means you just want to live as much as you can with as much joy as you can muster.

The writing is bleaker than I expected – lots of death and loss.

I don’t like dwelling here. My preference is more sunshine…

Reflecting, Story, Uncategorized

What Could We Learn from Our Pets?  #21daysofWriting – Day 7

This was a topic chosen by Kez Smith & I hope touches something close to most of our hearts.

If you are joining now.. this is a #21daysofWriting Challenge I’ve set myself – topics crowdsourced by good people in my network.


Our pets.

They come in all shapes and sizes, Furry, Hairy, Fluffy, Shelled, Scaled, Finned, Combed….. Some say we look like our pets. When I look at my slightly overweight, middle-aged black Labrador, snoring peacefully beside me, covered in grey hair with really bad bad breath…I hope this isn’t so.

But what do we learn from our non-human buddies? What life lessons do they bestow upon us with their presence?  Based on previous pet-experience, here are two suggestions:

Point 1: Death is inevitable

Yes. I thought I’d start straight on a cheery note.

This lesson is brought to you, courtesy of 2 goldfish, won at the Aberystwyth Fair one night some time in the mid 1980’s.  The terrible truth of this story is I can’t remember the names of said fish (In my head it is Finbar & Fishbar, but I know these were the names of my brother’s goldfish, later in life).

I remember winning them at something akin to a coconut shy (again – details sketchy on this one) and bringing them home, carefully holding the clear plastic bag in the back of the car. Either my Dad or my big brother warned me the fish were unlikely to survive the night. I was determined. These fish would live until I was old – like, maybe even 17. These fish would be kept alive with love.

That first night, the fish swam in a Pyrex bowl usually saved for cooking stuff in the new microwave. I was concerned about this… that they might end up in the fridge or zapped accidentally, but they were still there the next day. Alive.

They were pretty and orange. “Why do they call them gold?” I asked – I still don’t think I know, now I think of it. No matter. To me my orange-goldfish were perfect.

After school that day, mum took me to a pet shop (I’d never been to a pet shop) where the fish were bought a proper bowl, gravel, food and the wee man gave me instructions for looking after fish. The need to clean the bowl and top-up the water carefully was verbally underlined. Don’t worry, Good Sir.  I am keeping these fish alive and happy.

On returning home, the fish were transported gently into their new aquatic surroundings – with Mum adding a special prize of two fairly large white coral chunks which had previously been ornamenting the bathroom. Happy fish. New landscape. All was well.

The fish survived for months. And months. And months. It became a talking point with visitors – the fairground fish faring well. Our fairground fish were not the dying kind. They kind of grew and we got a bigger bowl…My fish-for-life plan was working.

Until, that was, I returned home from school one day to feed the fish, as usual. There they were, floating on the surface, pale and un-orange. Surprisingly white in death. Both fish. Gone. Both. On one day. One must have died of heartbreak when the first one died. My plan for old-age fish died with them. I was devastated.

The fish were given a proper burial, in the back garden. I made a little cross out of lollipop sticks and the white coral was placed on top as a sort of marker. Sad times.

The end of that particular fish-tale you’d think…only….it turns out my fish did not collectively and naturally meet their maker, as I had assumed.

The fish had, indeed, been alive for months. And in that time the white coral chunks had grown slimy and greener and greener. My lovely mum decided this wasn’t a good look and reasoned it was probably not good for the fish, so she took the coral out and gave it a damn good bleaching…. Not fully realising that coral is porous. So when, even after rinsing it through a few times, she put it back in the water….

Two bleached fish.

Point 2: They don’t speak your language

Around the same time, my Dad decided we needed a working sheepdog. We were living on the Welsh Agricultural College’s sheep farm in mid-Wales. Dad lectured there & ran the working farm. A little dairy, a little arable, but mainly it was the flock of a few hundred ewes that occupied us. We had a full-time Shepherd, Bertie – who was wee, barrel chested and dark. A serious man of few words. He spoke Welsh as his first language, English as a halting second. Bert trialled sheepdogs Nationally. He was a man who knew his stuff. To my knowledge, Dad consulted Bert about the sheepdog purchase, then went off somewhere to Powys, bringing back a 9 month old, semi-trained, skinny black-white and tan Collie.

Choosing to acknowledge our Scottish roots, we named him Jock.

We had high hopes for Jock – he came from a proud lineage of working dogs. Dad commenced training with the dog with gusto… but after 10 days or so, he admitted the dog confounded him. One Saturday morning, as I pulled on my wellies, Dad said we were going to pick up Bertie in the Truck to “See what can be done with Jock.”

Jock was in the back of the pickup as we drove, face fully into the wind, trying to bite the air as it passed him. My father was unimpressed “look at that daft mutt.”

It seemed we had been sold a pup. Literally.

20 minutes later, I’m standing on the field gate, beside Bert the Shepherd, who was leaning on his crook, flat cap pulled firmly on, Pipe in mouth, watching Dad and the dog.

The dog split the flock. He ran left, enthusiastically, when right would have worked better. He lay down only after several screams. Jock-the-Dog was, indeed, hopeless.

I said so to Bert. Confidently repeating Dad’s assertion that  “This dog is no use”

Bert sighed. Shook his head. Took his pipe out of his mouth and said darkly: “It might not be the dog, Julie fach”.

I looked on at the scene anew.

My father, increasingly agitated. Shouting louder, gesticulating more.

The dog LOVING every moment of running about with sheep – the sheer joy on his face, utterly unconcerned by the yelling Scotsman.

Eventually, Bert could take no more. He shouted Dad back and went into the field.

He called Hopeless Jock over, knelt down beside the dog and seemed to talk to him.

After a minute or so, he stood, full-shepherd, crook slightly out and began running the dog.

Of course, it worked perfectly. The dog dropping, running, shifting direction as bid. Whistles and shouts, calm instructions man-to-dog…. One flock, neatly rounded.

Bert walked calmly back, broad chested and slightly bandy-legged, Dog at his side. As was his way, he stopped without saying anything & started stuffing his pipe.

After a moment or so, he lit the pipe, took a puff or two and looked at my Dad.

“I think I know the problem, Bill.”

My Dad looked up

“This dog. He came from Powys, right?”

Dad nods

Bert starts to Chuckle….

“He don’t speak English…. Mae’r ci yn siarad Cymraeg”

I didn’t understand.

He chuckled again

“The dog speaks Welsh.”



It took a while to find what I wanted to write. The title invited an element of “expert”

What Could We Learn From Our Petssounds like something requiring something Proper.

I spent a couple of hours trying to write properly… racking my brains for something intelligent and wise to say.. and in the end, it was stories from my childhood that really resonated… the Goldfish tale and the, frankly daft, notion that a dog might “speak” Welsh. Both are true stories –blurred by memory and my brothers will doubtless tell me I’ve made stuff up… creative license? But when I started writing these tales, it flowed more easily, it was fun – I remembered more deeply than I expected to….

I also felt dodgy putting Welsh words in the tale of Jock – the endearment fachinstead of the formal version of little, bach. Google Translated “The Dog Speaks Welsh” and for any Welsh speakers ( Mark Hendy & Kate Graham, I particularly have you in mind) I may have added something comedy or true or awful in trusting a search engine…

Both stories still make me giggle… so I guess that’s been part of the pleasure of sharing.

Learning, Reflecting, Staying Curious, Uncategorized, Writing

21 Day Writing Challenge

I haven’t blogged since December.

I knew it had been a while, but I hadn’t realised it has been so long…. And when I look at 2018, it was hardly a bumper year for my writing on the blog. That has made me sad – I get a real kick out of blogging and my fuchsiablue voice – it was hard fought for, personally, to publish and “speak” – to show myself and share in that way… why, then, would I stop?

I am writing, of course – mainly personal stuff, not formed for public consumption – raw, rough and reflective – to figure out a situation, a puzzle. To hear myself clearly.

But something is shifting.

Last year I very nearly got to that writer retreat I’ve been so-long promising myself and have been so-scared to do. Since 2012, Blogging has given me confidence – folk being really kind about what they read, about what I wrote – people recommending and complimenting…it’s been good for my soul.. so the possibility of “taking seriously” that I could write started to hold some weight. What if… what if…..?

In the end, Work kicked in and I “postponed” the retreat, telling myself it was always there, I could always do it “another time” – classic avoidance, I realise now. I could have chosen writing over Work.. I didn’t. 

And slowly I’ve come to see how afraid I am of going to the retreat (now re-booked for August) – because what if… what if I’m not a writer? What if everyone is better than me? What if I fail? What if I hate it? The simple act of application means I’ve asked myself to start applying. 

And I’ve loved my relationship with my words and the writing process….what if I arse that up? What if I lose confidence? It’s so comfortable and cosy where I am….

But there has been a wee whisper…A little voice going: What More?

What I’m realising is I’m “naturally” (whatever that means) able to articulate stuff – for myself, for others… but that doesn’t mean I’m a writer – I have no craft, little practice beyond the drills I’m so familiar with. I haven’t tried to stretch myself, particularly. I have this voice, which I worked hard to find and share..and I stopped challenging myself shortly after locating it. I didn’t push myself or try much different. I found a thing. It was more-than-enough that I blogged. That in itself was beyond anything my 20-something self could ever have imagined.

I stuck with that…. which means I might be stuck with that.

It’s a slow process, with me. I lack discipline a lot around my writing, if I’m honest. I put my energy into work and life.. and writing is there, quietly waiting when I need to understand a thing or hear a thing – like the most patient and wise friend – but it’s not something I’m terribly… serious about.. I’ve taken for granted that I can pick up a pen or open a new Word Doc and just fill up the page with stuff – that I can access my head and my heart without vast amounts of anguish  – that for years I’ve been doing just that and actually, I’m fairly well practiced at it now.

And that’s becoming unsatisfying.

Today I’m going to my darling friend Anne-Marie Garner’s book launch. She has been writing Knot, Albert stories for her children (my gorgeous Godson & his beautiful little sister) since they were tiny. She has put in monumental effort to craft those stories, get them published, get merchandise and websites – I have watched her with awe and pride…and a little pang of envy. 

She, who says she isn’t a writer, absolutely is and has. 

I, who would claim affiliation with writing, absolutely haven’t. 

Yeh… I’ve got to face into my own nonsense on this one.

So… I’m off to a writer retreat in August. No excuses. Nothing short of natural disaster will prevent it. I’m utterly, white-knuckle terrified.. and that’s OK.

In the run in to August, I’ve reconnected with Natalie Goldberg’s work. Her wild-mind writing techniques are familiar in my work on the Facilitation Shindig and with coaching clients. This time round working with her thinking, I’m paying more attention to her craft, trying to write in different voices, from different angles, practicing stretching my tone, pace, broadening my vision.

And so it is with this I’m asking for a little help. If I leave myself to my own training regime, I’ll do a variation of what I believe I can do and the true stretch might not happen. So I’m going to try a thing.

I’m committing to some discipline and practice – 21 days of writing. 

No fewer than 600 words, no more than 1500.

I’ll publish whatever I write, no matter what I think of it – but I’m committing to write the best I can on the topic – no half measures, I might not like what I publish, but I have to have put my heart into it.

And so to you , dear reader, I’m asking for topics areas or scenarios – what would you have me write on?

I’m looking for 21 subject matters – I’ll start on Friday 10thMay, finish on Friday 31stMay. I’ll try to write daily – if I’m on a roll, I might write a couple & feed them in of different days – this is about me practicing different “drills” and trying out different subject matters or voices.

I’m going to use the #21daysofWriting hashtag – which is already partially established on Twitter.

You can tweet suggestions or DM me on Linkedin/ email me julie@fuchsiablue.com

It could be a glorious disaster or great fun, hair-pullingly frustrating or cathartic – it might well be all of the above, but let’s see…



*this is the written version of the story I told at #HRsOpenMicNight in Manchester on Wednesday 12th December. We were raising money for Retrak – please donate here

I went to a Clairvoyant on Monday night.

I blame my mate Liz who, after 3 glasses of fizz, was determined that Amelia-the-Psychic was a better investment than the Crimes of Grindewald….
Palmistry, tarot… the future would be ours.
Bag of bollocks.
But we go.

We stand outside the beautiful gypsy caravan… in the dark, cold Edinburgh night, in the midst of the Christmas Markets, in a queue full of expection.
The young girl in front of us aches with a question: Should I move to California?
I can’t help myself… I’m a coach and a pragmatist…. I ask her: What do you think?
She says she doesn’t know
I change tack – what’s your sense? You gut?
Yes, she says. It feels right.
So Trust that, I say, Be your own psychic – you know this stuff, you can tune into your own energy and sense.
All this [waving my hand at the caravan] is…. it’s an external manifestation of your internal conflict.

She looked at me oddly at that point…..and things moved on.

So I go up the stairs to see Amelia – she’s northern. Quietly spoken. Mid- late 60’s. Beautiful eyes. Warm. Welcoming.
and I relax, but I’m still running cyncism.
It’s so rare that I’m on the end of the questions – I’m often the one asking or telling the story back. So it is strange for me. I feel unshielded…..but she is gentle… I’m grateful for that.
As she turns the Tarot cards, she asserts and she asks, she puzzles her way through what is on the table – how does this-fit-with-this-and-then-this? And I find myself looking at her going: your job and mine hon… not so fecking different….

I don’t believe she is psychic, exactly – but this woman is empathic, warm , wise – she can see stuff, the energy I run, what I’m willing to reveal, where I hesitate – where I meet her eyes… where I look away.. the tone of my laugh… the set of my jaw… she is exquisitely tuned into me (and presumably my £20)

And I laugh – because I’m the first to scoff at bloody psychics and charlatans…. But here, with her….I recognise some of my own practice – some of the stuff I access to access others…the minute data… the receipt of a feeling…. The sense of a thing… the puzzling out of the story….
And how this way of working can be dismissed.
When we say where is the evidence? Where is the data?
If the answer is: you can feel it or hear it, you can sense it…..that’s not often well received.
A board meeting where the Feeling Report is the primary focus? not so much……

It makes me think about my work…
What work DO I do?
I work up close and personal with clients.
I give views. I support. I challenge. I annoy.
I have high standards about stuff I think matters – relationships, ethics, creativity, freedom, treating folk right, not being a dick – and stupidly low standards about stuff that seems to matter to other folk – status, power, financial gain, bottom line, certainty.
I’m about the culture and the heart of the business – our social, relational and emotional state. Sometimes I feel like the only one in the room talking about that shit.
Sometimes I really am.
Outlier, outsider, difficult, different…..
And I love.
I love what I bring and who I work with.
I love complexity and puzzles and strangeness.
I love stopping stupid things & starting less stupid ones.
I love saying “I don’t know… but we can figure it out”

This work… I see it as social, relational, emotional – and it’s still less valued than I’d like in organisations. This stuff – emotional labour – is so frequently seen as an add on – less powerful.

And I’m going to do the feminine thing. This work is inherently seen as feminine… not female, because I know blokes who work in this sphere with grace and skill. This is NOT about the gender we claim… it’s about the gender we give to What Matters.

If all that matters is strong, rational, assertion, advocacy, agency – we end up in a world where everyone is strong and rational and asserting – no one connects.
If all that matters is connection, emotion, communing, asking – we end up in a world that is too soft and indecisive… we need both.

We say we need both – but we really need both.
Emotional labour is not pink and bloody fluffy.
It take guts and tenacity to be with someone’s emotions.
High expressed emotion can be almost excruciating to be with, for some….it’s not faint-hearted in any way.

Which brings me back to Amelia.
Amelia sitting in a gypsy caravan in Edinburgh, connecting with people… listening to them…
Emotional Labour requires calm and wisdom and maybe even beautiful eyes….

Being kind and saying: Go to California to my wee friend……

Perhaps…. Perhaps I’m a little bit Clairvoyant….


Facilitation Shindig – Design Reflections

The second part of the London Facilitation Shindig season ran on Thursday 17th May. Each Shindig is themed, to give us an opportunity to run a “deep dive” into an area – to hold focus for a day around a particular part of our practice. (see more here for background) This time round, we looked at design.

The Design theme is the one I think I worry about most – firstly, because the topic is vast – Facilitation Design… where do you begin? With content? With aesthetics? With Presence? Should we focus on establishing clear outcomes? Structure vs emergence?

Secondly, the topic has the potential to be “heady” – we have learned or been taught an approach, which we carry on and carry out – start/middle/end, models, experiences etc – there are rules and methodologies…we know stuff, we are experienced.. we have tried and failed and refined……. what I always wanted for Shindig Participants is that we get under some of that “already known” stuff and reach to continue the stretch.

How you facilitate is pretty much a reflection of who you are – you are unavoidable in your own design process – that’s the stuff I want the gang to get to – recognition of who are you and what is important for you, where that is working and where that’s holding you back… and then what else?

And so it is I kick them off, days before, with some pre-work thinking:

  1. What’s important to you when you design (events or sessions)?
  2. What’s your “signature” design (The things you always use. How I would recognise it’s your design… mine, for instance, pretty much involves flipcharts & not much tech)
  3. What do you never use? ( this causes some discussion – how do I know what I don’t know. If I never use a thing, am I aware of that?)
  4. What’s your design process?

The Shindig is participant-focussed. I bring the theme & some ideas about how to populate it or work with it… but within that, the “learner track” is theirs. What they take away or choose to work with beyond the session is deeply personal…. I always assume they will work with something… I sometimes get nervous about that assumption… am I doing enough? Should I structure it more? But they are smart and willing folk – I know they have signed up to sign up – I have to take my own medicine and trust the process.

I find that a difficult line to navigate, at times – how much do I intervene or sit back and just let folk take what they take? The Shindig feels personal to me, but I want it to be others’ too. If I’m not “giving” people lessons or learning, if I trust they will work with where they are at and move forward at their own pace and path, am I doing my job properly? Delivering the intention set? I don’t have the answers… I have to ask the people who take part.

What it throws up is the quandary where I want to be able to say: Come to the Shindig and leave with X Y Z … I’m sure that would give people comfort… it would sure as hell make it easier to talk about…. But it’s not designed that way – it’s made to be an open process, a place to explore and find out from others. It means stuff I never knew or intended to bring in comes to the surface as significant –for instance, an emerging mantra from London of “connection over content” which was layered in through the deeply wonderful Gary Austin on the first Shindig. There is something quite delicious about the richness that comes.

Yet when we get to 11:15am and themes in the room range from:

  • What Design Principles do we have?
  • How to build safety,
  • The role of space (physical and time) on design
  • creation of emotional experience
  • Inclusion
  • Anxiety
  • Role of the Facilitator

I find myself fearful I have encouraged scatter-gun learning, which is more likely to confuse than inform. It’s meant to be about working with a few things deeply. Am I holding myself to that principle? Then I intervene, capture the themes, pause for a few moments, move into activities which might help deepen or clarify…I am so often as in their hands as they are in mine.

I hold to the belief that there is enough in the room to feed the learning and stretch of participants, that it’s OK to expect a lot from them, that they are up for it and very able… and so far that seems true.

It’s not for everyone. Structure Junkies and those who like a Learning Outcome might be eating their hands in frustration right now. I get that. Equally, It might not be the most efficient process either – exploration and experimentation over didactic explanation – the intention is for it to be a place for practitioners to work on their own stuff, in their own way, at their own pace, supported by others….I kind of stick to that.

Whichever way, through our non-linear explorations, we bump into all kinds of good stuff and things to think about and work with… Resource on the Slack channel this time has included things which both indirectly and directly affect our design:

Frank J Barrett – on Jazz Improv

Selective attention test https://youtu.be/vJG698U2Mvo

Emptiness and form – To Structure or not to Structure – Blog by Steve Chapman https://t.co/JSoCsOJlaf

Nesta’s Playbook on innovation and learning: http://www.nesta.org.uk/sites/default/files/nesta_playbook_for_innovation_learning.pdf

So I’m interested…when you think about your own design style for facilitation, how would you describe it?


The facilitationShindig season continues in London on July 12th at Amnetsy International Offices, Old Street. To find out more, follow @Shindiggery1 on twitter or go to www.facilitationShindig.com Tickets are available here:

Or contact hello@facilitationShindig.com if you want to chat to us.

We are working with Manchester University to bring some dates for a 2018 Manchester Season soon… Contact us to reserve your space.


Slight Return….

I’m back.

That’s how it feels.

13 years ago, fuchsiablue was cobbled into being at a kitchen table in an Edinburgh flat. After several attempts to name my new enterprise – most iterations of which sounded appallingly Apprentice-like (I literally cannot remember some of my first attempts, I have purged them from memory) – the breakthrough came by flipping through a massive thesaurus, with a massive glass of red wine… finally I found the words-to-fit-the-thing.
Fuchsia blue it was – reflective of a short career where I was consistently been told all things HR/ L&D were pink & fluffy & I robustly insisted that I was not, I was blue & practical…

There have been a few iterations of the business – the first 3-4 years it wasn’t really a business at all. I worked interim contracts – resourcing & managing TUPE transfers into the newly-forming Transport Scotland, later working in Communities Scotland on resource projects…. And a gnawing realisation that I didn’t have a business… I had a series of contracts.

Cue next iteration – years 4 -8 ish – I trained as a coach, got MBTI qualified, began working as an Associate more – learned what sort of folk I like to work with. Tried out as an Organisational Consultant for a firm I desperately wanted to work with – got feedback about “faking good” that cut me to the core, but was so bang on the money that I had to go lick my wounds and learn..I did fairly standard Associate work for fairly standard companies and I rarely rocked the boat. I turned up, did a good job, got paid, went home.

And I was pretty bored. I began to pay attention to a whisper in me about the work I could be doing if I was prepared to be brave, to be true to myself, to be more creative and authentic and stop behaving like a good girl in case I didn’t get a good wage….Hello years 8 – 13.

The last 5 years have been about writing, about creating, about social media, about carving a coaching and consultancy space that sits slightly outwith the received wisdom of what it “ought to be” – I’m not Avant Garde, exactly, but I stretch stuff where I can. In 2012, I went to Ashridge Business school and took on a MSc which blew up my practice and from there I’ve reconstructed the bits in different ways. The last 5 years have been defined by running a business against a backdrop of divorce, debt, dealing with dementia, death, depression, deficit stuff – these years have also been defined by abundance – deepened old friendships & family ties, new friendships, new horizons, new work, new relationships, new location…

I’ve been told I’m lucky – I believe that much of that “luck” has been hard worked for and won. I acknowledge I have privilege – my background, education & ethnicity means I can walk more freely in the world than many do – my intention is to use that privilege in the best way I can, to include others, to encourage others, to be a bigger, better person.

Never have I felt more privileged and lucky than today – as I write this, I am in a new office space. For the past 6 months I’ve had no fixed place for fuchsia blue. In that time we have started the single biggest piece of work ever undertaken by FB – a piece of culture & OD work with the newly forming Greater Manchester Combined Authority – and I’ve really noticed the impact of not having a single place to work from.

In some ways, necessity has been the mother of invention – I’ve sought out co-working spaces, hot desk arrangements and operated when and how I can…but FBHQ, it turns out, is not merely of the mind. It comes with stuff – post it notes & sharpies, paint and glue, books and flipchart paper…the work is often as physical and visual as it is conversational and dialogic. The work, my work as I do it, needs reflection, consideration, peace and a lot of staying connected to folk.
Without a room of my own, I’ve struggled to write, to be connected, to be productive. Without the physical space for roots, I’ve been unable to grow and I’ve felt tighter, more constricted, less able to be expansive and relaxed.

That changed yesterday – after 12 hours of hard work, 2 coats of paint, hands aching from allen-keys, tunes on, working methodically, with good coffee & music and a stream of helpers and co-working colleagues in my new space – I finally have a new home for FBHQ.

So here’s to the re-birth of blogging and working more consistently. Here’s to reconnecting and being productive and pushing for different work that makes a difference…. Here’s to beginning of 2018, finally….

Facilitation, Uncategorized

It Starts with You

Very little focuses my mind on what my point is more than having to explain my thinking publically. So it is that, prior to folk gathering for this month’s Facilitation Shindig, I’m mulling on WHY I believe Reflective Practice and starting with yourself-as-data is vital in any part of personal learning/growth/development.

I’m a firm believer that change doesn’t happen “out there” through other folk – it happens “in here” with you and your decisions and responses…I can come back to how external forces impact and alter us, but here I’m trying to map out why I think starting with self is the key to growth and change….and then.. work out “So what?” What does that mean for your working practice?

As ever, I’ve been writing, drawing, reading, and came up with some drawings to try to show what I’m trying to say

So here goes:

Part One – The Thinking

Personal growth and development requires you to start, or at least pay attention to, self-as-data. It’s essential that you have some awareness or understanding of your own “stuff” if you want to develop & change. This is because your beliefs, values, assumptions, certainties, doubts and experiences form the Foundations of your Practice – how you act and choose to be with people and situations. Understanding and exploring these means you become more deeply aware of who you are and what you can/will tolerate in life, work and in change. Through awareness, you can take informed action.

So. Start with self-as-data. Pay attention to the small stuff – what you like, don’t like, what you tolerate, what is intolerable, what behaviours work for you, when you act like a git etc. Keep notes or a journal or find an app that will nudge you. Get to know yourself.

Then there’s a piece about understanding what keeps your behavioural stuff in place (it’s familiar? Safe? efficient? deeply entrenched? rewarding? “proper”? Qualification-taught?) Because by understanding what keeps your foundations in place, you can assess the size of your personal resistance/ reluctance/ willingness to do something new. (I’m talking about rattling or fortifying foundations at the Shindig)

From here, through self-awareness and knowing your edges, you have good information to start challenging yourself with; making choices about your behaviours that are different from your “old self” (What are the foundations you want to rattle? What do you want to let go of? What are the foundations you want to fortify? What will you keep doing? or start doing?) This is the action part.

For me, reflection without action risks the territory of slightly naval-gazing/ noodling about.
Action without reflection is basically begging to repeat the same behaviours and errors, without refining successes.
You mostly need both.

So far, I’ve laid it all on you… trouble is we can be very skewed in our view of our own data – so alongside all this data- gathering, there is a huge role for finding others to talk to and test out theories on. Find coaches and mentors, peers, colleagues, brutal friends and semi-strangers who will help you sense-make what you find.

In the event that you bump into bits of yourself that fill you with dread, shame, sadness, disgust, fear, horror etc it becomes even more important to find someone to sense-make with. This is the territory we fear to tread into and reject. Typically, this is the very territory which, if explored, gives us a bigger, freer work or life-range. Having someone – perhaps someone qualified, or just unerringly sensible and trustworthy – to share and illuminate our darker bits is..…well I just don’t know how you tackle this stuff alone.

We increasingly know that change sustains and holds more when making small adjustments – small, purposeful changes are more likely to last… and yet still too often we look for outside sources (courses, mindfulness to forget about inner conflicts, how to guides etc) to enable us to make the changes – when really, it starts with you & your willingness to reach in, adjust your own dials and act.

Of course, the downside is you can’t guarantee everyone around you will like it if you successfully change.. that can get interesting..… longer blog.

The premise behind the Facilitation Shindig series was always to give Practitioners a year & 5 spaces to do some of this self-reflection, action-learning stuff so they really improve their Practice. Facilitation, especially when you work with teams who are unhappy or in flux, can be hugely personally challenging.. and lonely… you need a place to go to fortify yourself.

Part Two – The Drawing

And so I’ve been designing and thinking, doodling and playing with images to try to pull together some of how this stuff goes.
I came up with two sketches that reach toward what I’m trying to capture.


The person in the circle is surrounded by the Foundations of their Practice and in the midst of a sort of big circular mash-up of Seniger’s Comfort Zone stuff, with a little Argyris Double-Looped learning happening – folding new information back in to his/her awareness to reflect the “bouncing” we do when we start new stuff (in/out certain/unsure etc). Beyond the edges of current practice are new worlds and new behaviours – to get there requires action, experiments, testing stuff out & looping the good bits (you hope) back in to fortify the Foundations



The second is a representation of that “next level” stuff that everyone goes on about – here I’m trying to show that you build on what you know and “next level” means losing or developing some of the familiar & building on new ground…. The better you know the your Foundations, the better decisions you make about what to take with & what to leave behind – means you build your “next level” on a risher, more secure platform.
Not sure this drawing shows the difficulty in addressing the barriers or shows the “bounce” stuff…..

At the bottom, is looping – I’ve double looped, down into Existing Practice, up into New Practice – I like this now. It’s sort of elegantly simple, but needs a little explanation.

All of this is to articulate why Practitioners benefit from taking time out to reflect, experiment, learn about themselves and try new actions and work with other people. It’s why I’ve designed the Facilitation Shindig to be a year-long programme, for those who want it to be – to give you time to become more self-aware and give yourself that time to rattle or fortify the foundations of your practice.

So the basic premise is, Practitioners, that it starts with you & then it goes out to others and comes back to you.

The Facilitation Shindig is a Series of events running throughout 2017 in Manchester. The aims are to upskill and support facilitators, celebrating the art and the craft of facilitation through discussion, reflection, storytelling, experimenting and action.


If you want to know more about the Facilitation Shindig – visit www.facilitationShindig.com

or follow @shindiggery1 on Twitter

Or register your interest here

About me:

I’m an Organisational Consultant, Exec Coach, Facilitator, Speaker, Blogger & Dialogue Guide. Working with people & organisations to improve conversations, relationships & learning – Doing stuff with love.

Find me on Twitter @fuchsia_blue

Contact fuchsiablue to find out more





rɛst/ verb
1. cease work or movement in order to relax, sleep, or recover strength.
2. be placed or supported so as to stay in a specified position.
“her elbow was resting on the arm of the sofa”
3. (In Music) an interval of silence of a specified duration.

When do you rest?
How do you rest?
Do you rest?

I was saying how much I’m looking forward to the holidays – I’m a lover of this time of year, all things Solstice and the dead dark of the winter – and I began to notice how much I was craving rest. Proper, intentional, rest. 2016, for all it has been scolded for its disruptive, destructive madness, has been a year of more stability for me, personally. A new home. Proper holiday. A sense of family and community. New working partnerships. Interesting new clients and good work with existing ones… and still, I’m OK with it coming to a close.

I’ve had the privilege of working with an eclectic mix of cultures in 2016, from Ballet Companies, to a European Motor Company; from start-up Research outfit to Fire and Financial Services (separate services for the record, just in case that reads badly). I know how I work defies the received wisdom about having a “niche” or a “thing”… which get a little tricky at times as folk try to place me – and the eclectic thing means I cross-pollinate learning solutions and cultural conversations as I go and that means I’m constantly learning…and that means my breadth and depth of subject matter itches are both scratched……..and it means I have to have more conversations about “fit” than I might otherwise need to have if I had a schtick… which is kind of hard work at times… and these are my choices and I like them….

Nevertheless, I’ve been feeling that raggedy end-of-term sense – where the end is close, but there still seems to be a lot of homework and final projects complete – and in my head, I was kind of looking forward to collapsing in front of the telly, bubbles in hand, for some vintage movies and a lot of snoozing… and yet my heart was gently pointing out somehow this wasn’t quite going to cut it, still…

What I’ve realised is, I’m in need of rest. Not oblivion. Not sprawling, vacantly staring, at the TV, flicking endlessly for “Something Good”. Not giving up and lying in a Spa for 2 days, whilst real life patiently waits in the car park to be dealt with… Not locking the doors and switching off the phone, battening down the hatches and running scared from the neighbours.

I need proper rest – nurturing, nourishing, quiet; with a dose of hectic and lifestuff thrown in to add zest and joy. I need time to read a little, cook a lot, exercise a little, walk outdoors a lot, hold my loved ones, reflect on the year a little…

For many of us, the concept of “rest” is an altruistic one, a much-sought holy grail. There is something of the “tomorrow” about it –it will never come.

For me? It needs to be fought for. Rest in the sense I need it doesn’t mean dropping out and ignoring everyone and everything, only to find stuff still looms large later… it means some matters need to be attended to first, in order to carve out the rest space. For me, it means being able to rest within and alongside your life, learning where and how this is possible. It means allowing myself to be looked after (no easy feat for me) and relishing being allow to look after others. It might mean getting up before the rest of the house for a bit for some quiet time… it might mean sleeping in….

So the presents need buying and Christmas lights are up, the kitchen will have “store cupboard” stuff in so we don’t have to run to the supermarket every two minutes. The wine will be stocked. We know roughly who is where on what day… roughly… and space to Be is in there… and we just need to hold it… and that’s sometimes the tricky part.
The house will be cleaned, tidied and cleared, with as little mania as we can muster – clean and tidy enough to be welcoming, not so much that it’s threatening etc. There’s a bad Christmas Playlist forming (including the much beloved 12 Hawaiian Days of Christmas “ Five big fat pigs/four flower leis/ three dried squid/ two coconut & one minor bird in one papaya tree” – I defy you not to giggle) There are loose plans – new Star Wars Movie, a Theatre trip, kids coming and going, walking off the Christmas pudding etc. At points, everyone being together in the same place will feel like a chore, no doubt – and then the trick will be to carve space for everyone to be Elsewhere or Otherwise Occupied for a bit.

And at some point, having spent half an hour reading a book and then stomping up the hill with dog & humans in tow, knowing there is food ready on return and not really minding when we get back, I will feel that slightly melty feeling and know myself to be relaxing.

I think rest these days is hard-fought for. I know it is worth the fight.

To you and yours I wish you all the best for the Season & good rest, when the opportunity comes.


Stories & Telling & Asking & More


Yes – I’ll help set up a storytelling zone. In the exploration of the social age, I’ll happily find a place for folk to gather and talk and think and question and share. I’ll make a nook – a place to hang out and meet and mull. Laura will make a Newspaper office right next to it, handing out nips of whisky and chatting over typewriters…..stories created here & captured there…. That works.

Stories? Sure, that’s part of what life and work is about – your story, our story, the story of the organisation; tales of the unexpected and of the known – specific tales that bring hypothesis somewhere more understandable or tangible… the Theory is this: my Reality is that…. Ah.. this is helpful – I can see more clearly now.

If I coach you, we work with your story – your narrative of yourself. How you see yourself and tell yourself to others. How you know yourself. What you allow yourself to do.. or not do… or think… or say… I’ll offer counter narratives.. can we re-write this together? Can this be a different tale?

As the Safari unfolds, I hear metaphors & how useful these can be to work with. How a shared story helps people gather and understand. How the plea for Purpose in organisations is also a plea for a simple narrative – what do we stand for here? Will you stand for that with us?

I hear about working in small streams; river tributaries that might eddy or might flow out to the ocean; I hear of someone quilting – piecing odd fabrics together to create something beautiful and new and original.. the pieces becoming a whole different entity; we hear Social Media sharing not as an act of self-promotion, but as an act of generosity – sharing content and knowledge specifically to generate change… the self-lessness a thing I forget about at times in the midst of broadcasted cultivated messages….

And so much I don’t know about stories – what do we do with messy narratives that don’t follow a proper arc? The archetypes available… the questions you can ask: are we in an organisational tragedy? Comedy? Farce? So much still to learn, to ask, to discover.

Catherine and Selby work with creative voices. Poetry and music bring narratives to life – protest songs and lives spoken into being… lyrical, lilting riffs that are unexpectedly touching, moving and powerful. The words sung or spoken have a effect that cannot easily be expressed….articulated in emotions and sensation – beyond words in many ways… I enjoy the irony.

Later, I leave early, my own fairy tale of being able to push through a flu-like cold thing truly undermined by the very factual story of shivers and temperature, of sand-papered throat and woolly brain-function. As I find myself sitting on the floor of a packed train, feeling terribly sorry for myself and telling my woes on a Slack channel to my beloved friends, Amanda asks: Would you like a story?
And I relax – Yes. Tell me a tale from beyond this train – and she does… and it is beautiful and human and poignant… and then Fi shares her Tale from the Underground… and I’m elsewhere and warmer and more connected all at once and somehow it makes things better.

There is power in stories… and in those who tell them.


Thanks to inspirers/ co creators Geoff Stead, Carol Read, Julian Stodd, Damian Corbett,  Sukh PabialJonathan Anthony  Johanna Wyers, Amy Burvall, Stephanie Morgan  SeaSalt Learning Crew including (but not exclusively) Laura Williams, Valerie De Pauw,  Hannah Moxom, Phillip Kingsbury, Paul Draper, Rich Stannard, David Jarrett & Emily Pykett

to Amanda Arrowsmith & Fiona McBride

seek out #socialAgeSafari

Check out Spoken Artist & Poet Joseph Selby & bluegrass/ folk musician Catherine Burke

Development, Dialogue, Leadership, Learning, Organisational Change, Organisations, Reflecting, Staying Curious, Uncategorized

Think For A Minute – Reflections on Learning & Leadership

Stop for a moment, good leaders of organisations and people.
Pause, Practitioners of Learning and Development.

Cease acting for a moment, or two, or longer and just….. Hold. Breathe. Be.
Relentless activity.

Constant striving.

Be Better.

More for Less.


Alright. Fine. There is that.

And there is more.

Continue reading “Think For A Minute – Reflections on Learning & Leadership”