I’m writing this as I remember my trip to the South Devon Hub last week – it was a wonderful day. Not least, because it’s journey I’ve been making for 30 years, since leaving home at 18 and going to Dartington College of Arts. It still makes me smile, that 30 years on and we now have a Freelance Mum hub, right in the heart of where I spent my student years, studying theatre. Isn’t it funny how life goes 360?
It was a bitterly cold January morning, when I caught the train from Bristol Temple Meads – predictably (and understandably) the trains ran late. Note to self, it might make more sense to visit FM hubs, outside of the winter months, when there’s less disruption. Not that I minded, in fact the chaos even added to it. There was a moment where I found myself talking to two under graduates, who didn’t know each other and were both trying to travel to Exeter. There we all were, making connections, asking each other what we all do and why were travelling. I couldn’t but help thinking, even being delayed at the train station, turned into a networking opportunity!
And when the train did arrive, even that felt like a leap of faith. In came a train, which was about to be split into two. One half was going to Edinburgh and the other half was going to Devon – only they hadn’t changed the ‘labels’ on the train, so both halves said ‘Edinburgh’! I asked the man carrying all the sandwiches onto the buffet cart, which way he was heading – he said Devon and half smiled to myself. I decided to get on the same half of the train as him. If in doubt, get on the train with the sandwiches!
I think the Devon- Totnes train journey, is always my most favourite one. There’s something quite amazing, about that stretch through Dawlish and Dawlish Warren – going through the cliffside tunnels and looking out at the sea. It feels like ‘Famous Five’ territory and brings back so many happy memories. In fact, I make no attempt now to take my laptop with me, when I do this journey – it’s my time to look out the window and daydream. Take my head to that ‘happy place’ and let the nice thoughts drift in. Well, at least attempt to!
It was Ingrid, one of the Freelance Mum Fairies, who picked me up from Totnes station – complete with FM Coffee Cup in her car! With more time, I’d have happily walked along the cycle path and up Dartington Drive to meet in for the netwalk – it’s a well-trodden route I often did as a student. The winding drive, looking down at the River Dart and the beautiful shaped trees, takes some beating. We parked up in the carpark and head to Montreal Style Bagel Café, our meeting point, before heading off to the netwalk.
We’ve always said that at the netwalks ‘we walk at the pace of the slowest toddler’ and we were true to our words, as Jess (the second FM Fairy) lead the way with her youngest, Juno. Juno looked fantastic, all bundled up in her ski-suit, snug and warm, in the chilly, crisp air. And with the cold temperatures, came beautiful blue skies – the type that make you pleased to be alive! It was such a joy to be outside, connecting both with nature and with each other – catching up and sharing ideas.
I’ve always said, one of things I love about walking and talking, it’s almost a way of ‘throwing ideas in the air and seeing what comes down again’. When you just sit and have coffee, it feels more stagnant. Walking and talking, quite literally keeps everything moving. In fact, within minutes of arriving at the netwalk, I had already learnt from one FM member, that really the year should begin in the spring. The calendar we use is a patriarchal calendar, if instead we based it on a 28 day month, we would have 13 months in a year and start the year spring. No wonder so many of us are still in hibernation!
In true Freelance Mum style, we talked about freelancing and what makes us a freelancer? If you take on a part time job, does that make you less a freelancer? It was a great conversation to have and definitely one which will be discussed later (maybe in next weeks podcast). The netwalk took us to the Deer Park – such a lovely route. It was Jess & Ingrid who plotted the route, when they launched the hub. They sensibly decided it would be fun to head to the covered wooded area, where you can see if you can leap as far as a deer. Turns out I can’t, but had great fun trying.
The rainbow umbrella was put to good use, capturing photos of Jess & Ingrid which looked just fab. It all tied in with the ‘rainbow rule’ – if there’s a rainbow when you’re on an FM netwalk, then we’ll buy the coffees. I wonder how that will go in with April showers?
As ever, the focus questions, were great conversation starters – sometimes they were used, sometimes listened to and ignored, but always great thinking points. In fact, it was one focus question (and I forget which now) which led to a great chat that we must read more fiction! Business books/learning all has a place in this world, but we need to escape too. It’s always good to lose yourself in a book. I couldn’t agree more, it feels like the ‘book equivalent’ to my train journey and enjoying just daydreaming, whilst looking out the window.
The netwalk was rounded off with a coffee at the Montreal Style Bagel Café – where they really do sell a bagel with everything! I took the opportunity to put a new FM flyer onto their beautiful kept notice board and have a look at what else was going on in the area. We all grabbed hot drinks, before gathering and going through this months activity. The thing I love about FM (well, one of the many things I love about FM) is that every hub has the same activities– yet we all come at them in different ways. In fact, it much like all the different hubs and netwalks. They all have the same ‘footprint’ or template, but they all have their own signature and look and feel. Whether it’s the rural paths of South Devon, to the urban landscape in inner Bristol, they all have their beauty.
This months activity has been a really useful one – looking at international growth. It’s provided some really good conversations and a different way looking at running our businesses. It’s even prompted some members to look at working in different time zones, to fit in with their available working hours. It’s amazing what happens when FM minds come together – as FM member Rachel Mason always says, between us, we really can do anything. I think she’s right there, we really are amazing forces when we all come together.
The great thing about visiting the hubs, is it’s ‘a day out of life’ but you pick up so much on grass roots level. Nothing beats actually ‘walking the (net)walk’ and catching up with the FMs in the hub. Hearing what’s going on/finding out the challenges and talking points. In fact, it was only after visiting, I decided to form a plan and do a South Devon Summer Social – you can’t beat a lovely long summers evening and there’s no better setting.
I travelled home, weary, but fulfilled, after a long day – my cup over flowing with ideas and love for the FM community. Can’t wait to visit again next time.
PS My takeaway points from the day were:
- Networking can happen anywhere, even on a cold platform. Just striking up conversation is widening your network.
- Day dreaming is good for the soul, it feeds ideas and takes you to a happy place….
- …..As is reading fiction. We all need to down tools.
- We can start the new year in spring.
- Being outdoors makes us all feel better.
- Reading local notice boards, is a great way of getting a feel for a local area.
- International growth can start on your doorstep. You never know who is connected to who in your community.
- And finally, if in doubt when getting on a train– follow the man with the sandwiches!