Posted in Personal life, Reading, Writing

In Praise of Community Magazines

Sample copies of Hawkesbury Parish News & Tetbury AdverEvery month, I write columns for two local magazines – the Hawkesbury Parish News and the Tetbury Advertiser. Both of these publications are lovingly put together by hugely experienced volunteers for the benefit of the local community.

The papers combine articles by local people and community groups with affordable advertising opportunities to help local businesses attract new customers. Both publications plough back any profit into local good causes and charities. They contribute significantly to the well-being of their local communities, both by enabling effective local communications accessible to all (and not just to those on the internet) and by improving local facilities and services – factors which are particularly important in rural areas such as ours. Such magazines may also be significant and much-needed customers for local print companies.

Serving The Whole Community

Impressively, they manage to keep the cover price of both papers low – Hawkesbury Parish News costs just 40p an issue (which includes free delivery by hand to your home) and Tetbury Advertiser is free. Thus not even a housebound pensioner on a small fixed income with no internet access need ever miss out on feeling a part of their local community. Even if they never get out to take part in any of the many local activities featured in these pages, they will still feel like they are part of the community. If I were in charge of the New Years’ Honours List, the volunteers who dedicate an extraordinary amount of time and effort into putting out these publications  would not go unrewarded.

Every Household’s Favourite Read

One might be forgiven for wondering whether in this internet age, which threatens the viability of so many local and national newspapers, such magazines might be on the wane. A few years ago, working for a local private school that was trying to discover the most effective advertising media , I undertook a survey of the school’s current pupils parents to discover which were the best read newspapers and magazines in their households.

I expected to learn that upmarket newspapers and glossy magazines were their favourite – The Times and the Financial Times, perhaps, plus Country Life, Country Living and Tatler. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the papers of which they were least likely to miss an issue were local community magazines such as Hawkesbury Parish News and the Tetbury Advertiser. It’s not surprising that both of these publications have been gaining size, strength and readership year on year.

As you’ll have guessed, I’m proud to support and write for both of these great publications. To make my articles available to a wider audience, including the Hawkesbury and Tetbury diaspora, I post them up on my author website a week after each print issue will have landed on people’s doormats. To suit the interests of their readership, these articles usually relate either to the time of year or to local activity in our part of rural Gloucestershire.  So here’s my first column for HPN in 2014, which manages to do both at once.

New Year, New Strategy

In an old notebook, I recently discovered a list of New Year Resolutions that I’d written down about 15 years ago. Although I don’t remember making the list, the resolutions were familiar, being pretty much the same ones that I make every year.

Why the repetition? Because like most people, I never manage to keep my New Year Resolutions beyond the end of January – though as an optimist, I never fail to make some.

But this year will be different, because I’ve hit upon a cunning plan: my 2014 list will be comprised of things I DON’T want to achieve. That way, by breaking them early on, I’ll reach my true goals. Thus:

  • “To spend more than I earn each month” will enable me to amass regular savings
  • “To consume more calories each day than I burn off” will precipitate steady weight loss
  • “To avoid training 3-4 times each week to prepare for the HU5K* Run” will ensure that I’m able to run it with ease, in a respectable time

Writing this column mid-December, I see no flaw in my lateral thinking, but will it actually work? I’ll tell you on Saturday 14th June as I cross the HU5K finishing line…

Happy New Year to you all, however you resolve to spend it!

* HU5K is the Hawkesbury Upton 5K Fun Run which I help organise to raise funds for the village school. It takes place the Saturday before Father’s Day each year, and 2014 will be the third annual event. For more information, please visit its website: www.hu5K.org.

My Previous Years’ Posts About New Year Resolutions (which, by chance, all have a connection with running!)

Posted in Family, Personal life

The Multi-Tasking Mummy

Plate spinning , Brisbane, Australia
Plate spinning – it’s what I do every day of the week (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few years ago, when I was working at a girls’ boarding school, I was asked at least once a year to give a careers talk to the pupils, because I was one of the few members of staff whose career had included extensive time away from a school environment.

Amongst other things, I’d been a journalist and a PR consultant. This experience meant I could speak with authority about the value of “transferable skills”, as the jargon put it.These are skills that would be of as much use in one job as another – number management, working with people, planning, and so on, as opposed to the ability to manufacture a Ford Escort car, say, which would only be of any use to an employee of the Ford Motor Company.

Before my talk, to be given under the watchful eye of the careers teacher, I made sure to do my homework. I put together an impressive collection of evidence of my previous careers to use as visual aids. Slamming down on the desk a big exhibition catalogue that I’d once edited would be very useful for waking up any girls who had nodded off.

I also took along a very interesting press cutting that I’d spotted in a national daily. This article predictied that by the time the current generation of schoolchildren had grown up, the notion of a “job for life” or even a career for life would be outmoded. Instead, the average worker of the future would be likely to do an estimated 17 jobs during his or her career. It would also become the norm to do more than one job at a time, with at least one of these being pursued from the home rather than in a separate workplace.

English: Screenshot from Linux software KTouch...
The essential 4th R for any career girl – after Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic comes typewRiting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I duly photocopied this article and  distributed it among the girls, just after I’d startled them by describing my first transferable skill: teaching myself to  touch-type.  They exchanged disbelieving looks at my description of my electric typewriter, which in those days passed for high-tech.

From the security of that full-time job in the school, I had no inkling that within less than 10 years I’d have a portfolio career myself – a concept that at the time had terrified me as much as it had the girls. Now, viewing the notion from the other side of the fence , I can’t believe that I survived working in just one job for so long without a crushing sense of claustrophobia.

The actress Bea Arthur
Bea Arthur, inspiration for BEA magazine

This complete about-face didn’t really strike me until I was interviewed recently by a terrific online magazine called Bea, which was set up as the antidote to the typical women’s   newstand publication. I love its strapline: “BEA… whoever you want to be”. And, do you know, I think I am now doing just that.

Click here to read their article all about, er, me….  (and lots of other great articles on a huge range of topics). And be amazed at how much I fit in to each day. I know I am. No wonder I’m always tired…