#24 Snow, not slow, or Downshift for a Day

In Homeworking, Kids on January 7, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Ah, how much the events, or lack, of the past year have changed me.

For some reason, my son’s school was closed today. There was a blizzard last night and the roads were icy this morning, but 90% of the teachers live within walking distance, and as the fevered rise in popularity of this school lately means catchment is rumoured to be down to 350 yards, I’m assuming most of the children do too. Then again, like most London primary schools, it’s an old Victorian wreck so I imagine the boiler is struggling to keep the temperatures up to the statutory 25 deg C. Plus the headmaster puts an exclusion zone around any snow that falls in the playground in case a pupil is tempted to touch it.

Ironically, this closure had to happen on the one day this month when I actually had some paid work in an actual office for actual money. Inconvenient and costly.

When the snow hit last year it also came during a rare period of employment. That time the snow was so deep and so sudden that London came to standstill – no busses, no trains, no school. The first day I embraced the silent streets (the pockets of air in the snow absorb the sound you know) and compulsory snowball fights; the second I dumped the children with a childminder, pulled on my wellies and walked two miles to the nearest Tube that would take me near the office. While they had a wild time sledging, I had an altogether less wild time sending emails, restructuring other people’s writing, and chasing invoices.

This year, I momentarily considered taking my son into the office with me (his sister still had to struggle up several steep hills to get to her much tougher school), along with a DS, pile of colouring and a list of potential contacts who could pick my daughter up should her school close early or in the event of my being stranded on the other side of town. But then I thought: f*** it. Was their business really going to collapse if I didn’t turn up for a morning to do some admin and have a meeting? (don’t worry, it didn’t)

Snowy days are still a rarity in London. They are the sort of days on which childhood memories are made, and days on which the world looks beautiful and different. My son will have few enough of them, I have few enough of them, so let’s notch some up when we can. I can see that the soft white flakes are already turning to a more familiar cold, hard drizzle.

The relative (not complete) lack of guilt with which I took today’s decision surprised me. Much has already been written on downshifting. Manifestos such as How to be Idle, The 4-Hour Workweek, and a pretty new book I spotted yesterday called The Wonderful Weekend Book – ‘reclaim life’s simple pleasures’. There’s the swift rise of the Slow Movement, rock stars moving to the country to make cheese, national newspaper editors who chuck it in to lose £200,000 running a farm, and ex political editors blogging about the joys of being a (not quite) stay at home mum (see blogroll below).

Thing is, I’ve always thought downshifting a bit overrated.

This may be part of my Presbyterian work ethic, but is more likely because the people most vocal about it tend to have downshifted from a position of success and achievement, not one of studied mediocrity where to do less, more slowly, seems not so much giving up the rat race as giving up hope. As I have yet to experience life in the fast lane, I’m still keen to maintain a bit of speed. Plus downshifting is clearly quite hard work to do properly (just look at the reading list for starters).

But today was fun. We improvised sledges badly, failed to make a snowman (too powdery), and ate fish finger sandwiches and smiley potato faces at someone else’s house. Meanwhile I forced my daughter out to school (well, I wouldn’t want her to grow up to be a malingerer) where she and her friends built a snowman at her school and the headmistress photographed it for the newsletter.

While I have no intention of officially downshifting just yet, I could yet see my priorities finding a more healthy alignment. In the words of Ferris Bueller: ‘Life moves pretty fast. You don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.’ Oh yeah!

  1. This is a very good post and i also like your blog page layout too. Bookmarked your site and will stop by again

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