Conversational Competence

Do you use Facebook or other social media? I do – though I have a love-hate relationship with them!

A friend posted this on his wall a couple of days ago.

I was irritated by it because I don’t like the click bait technique. I want to know WHY people recommend something before I follow a link … but actually my friend was being rather clever here. The clue was in the wording.

It was a really good, informative, practical TED talk not only about the importance of listening but how to listen well!

You might like to listen to it yourself before reading what I think!

How to have a Good Coversation (Celeste Headlee)

Conversation and dialogue really matters.

I really liked the point she made about not needing to show you are paying attention (eye contact, mmm and aaah, etc.) if you are actually already paying attention!

And I found this quote from Paul Barnwell to be spot on.

A true listening requires a setting aside of oneself

It’s hard to listen well because it really does require us to set ourself, our stories, our thoughts, our emotions aside.

Celeste Headlee made the following points to help us have better conversations.

  1. Don’t multitask i.e. be PRESENT …don’t be planning what you’ll say next or be thinking about something else!
  1. Don’t pontificate; i.e. enter a conversation ASSUMING you have something to learn!
  2. Use open-ended questions: who,,what, when, where, why and how?
  3. Go with the flow: thoughts and stories will come to you while the other is speaking … don’t hang onto them, let them go!
  4. If you don’t know say you don’t know: be honest about gaps in your knowledge
  5. Don’t equate your experience with theirs! All experiences are individual and their story is not about you … e.g. if they’re experiencing problems at work don’t start talking about how much you hate yours!
  6. Try not to repeat yourself – it’s condescending!
  7. Stay out of the weeds people don’t care about the names, dates, years, those minor details you are struggling to remember; they care about YOU
  8. LISTEN; it takes energy and effort but if you can’t listen you aren’t in a conversation!
  9. Be brief!

Overall, be interested in other people. Everyone has some hidden, amazing thing about them. Look for that – it makes you a better host!

In summary


it really was a good talk. If you haven’t done so already, do follow my friend David’s advice: skip over there and listen!


Nastaja Säde Rönkko: Young Artist of the Year 2019

I’ve just visited Tampere Art museum where Nastaja Säde Rönkko’s video and exhibition relating to her 180 days off line impacted me deeply.

I’m aware of the deep irony of sitting here -online in the museum – blogging about it!

It sounds easy to be offline for an extended period of line – boycotting or fasting from Facebook, Twitter, Instragram and other social media … though in all honesty I think that’s pretty hard in itself; but what her ‘experiment’ showed clearly was the more subtle ways we get sucked in: shopping online, making travel arrangements on line, apps for busses and airlines, travelling on public transport, online maps and GPS routes, checking the weather, news, contact information, using contactless cards in shops, cafes etc. etc. The list is endless!

What impressed me was that she carried on her normal life (working in a daycare in London) … she didn’t withdraw from society but was still in contact with people by phone and by letter, still able to read the news (a weekly newspaper) … and also that she refused to ‘cheat’ by asking someone to use their phone /tablet/pc to google something for. That took discipline. (there was a log of the half dozen times she did go online .. interestingly none in the last three months, and most at the very beginning)

For half a year she read books, newspapers and used printed maps (including the A-Z of London!), she used ATM to withdraw cash and queued up in the newsagents to top up her Oyster card and phone, for example. Of course that means that at some level she was connected to the internet as they used the internet to do the topping up but nonetheless she avoided using her phone or tablet or pc to conduct life as she had been doing up until that point. One consequence of this meant engaging with people more.

What impressed me most was the letter writing!

The video was really interesting …I watched it from beginning to end. You can read more here

The Beauty of Fictional Towns

I am more of a reader than a writer … I’m an avid reader in fact, so much so that – more often than not- it gets in the way of writing.

I’ve just finished devouring a fantastic novel, one which according to Daisy Goodwin was “Gone Girl on speed”, while the author of Gone Girl (Paula Hawkins) said it was

Very twisted and Dark

And it was!

The Kind Worth Killing was full of suspense, twists and turns right to the very last page (yeah it sounds like a cliche but it truly was, as Sophie Hannah (a favourite author of mine) put it “extremely hard to put down”.

I concur!

I recently read an article about why Sophie Hannah doesn’t set her novels in real towns and places. Her main reason was a bit surprising

“In the UK, people are obsessed with attaching ideas about what kind of people live in a certain place,” she said. 

“People have such regional prejudices. If you wrote a book in England about someone from a terribly deprived background, selling drugs, and set it in Hampstead, everyone would go ‘that couldn’t happen’.

According to her any plot about drug addiction, poverty etc in Hampstead would be “considered unconvincing, while people were surprised her own home town of Manchester did not mean she was deprived.”

Her second reason was that an imaginary location gave much more freedom. If the book was set here in Turku, for example, someone would dispute that the swimming pool was opposite the main library when everyone knows the lido is up on a hill the other side of the river!

Sophie Hannah put it like this

Because it’s a fictional place, actually it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to think on what did I say in the last book? 

“You can at any point say very confidently that a character drove past the swimming baths and parked outside the cinema next door. And no one can have enough knowledge of the fictional place to say it’s not really there.”

It makes me wonder, however, if it’s a bit sloppy not to check what you wrote in the last book. Mmm have to get the first one published before that’s an issue

Read what she said about Fictional Towns in full here

Finland in summertime …

I might not be on pilgrimage anywhere right now, but I’m still walking … of course, I am. It feels part of my DNA nowadays! And Finland is glorious in the summer months!

Three years ago I signed up to a group #walk 1000 miles in 2017 and I’ve signed up ever since. I walk quite a lot with our dogs anyway but what being part of the group has meant is that I walk and hike more intentionally, and I jot down how it’s going.

The day before last I was feeling a bit down, so pulled on the trusted walking boots and set off with hubby and the dogs. We didn’t walk that far – about five miles – because the oldest dog struggles with doing much more – but it was glorious.

1000 miles in a year sounds a lot (particularly when you don’t count indoor steps) but it’s actually only 3miles (5km) a day … not hard when you have golden retrievers to walk daily, and every year so far I’ve hit the target by midsummer. I’m currently at 2100km / 1300 miles in 2019!

A “down in the dumps” kind of day

No obvious reason for this … life is fine, but I’ve been feeling off for a few days. I’m not particularly enjoying reading or walking and running has been harder work and brought less joy than usual; and a few careless comments and texts have made me a bit sad.

It’ll pass: swimming outdoors tomorrow will help, and I’ll try running with a friend again the day after.

Geothermal heating (continued)

Two weeks ago I shared that we were going geothermal It’s already in and installed thanks to the very hard work of a fantastic team of workmen last week.

Everything was installed, tested and working by Friday afternoon which meant hubby and the dogs got to enjoy the new cooling system this weekend when the temperatures outside were close to 30C.

The huge water tank (2000l) has gone … and not a minute too soon it seems as the base had rusted a lot and one of the zinc connections had worn extremely badly. It had been guaranteed for 20 years … but in place for almost 23 years … so it seems our timing to move to geothermal was perfect.

The boiler room now looks huge because the huge water tank and boiler have been replaced with these little beauties.

We will have constant hot water (heated for ‘free’) and once the winter comes the system will pump the hot water under the floors (as before, only now heated geothermally) this means that our winter electricity bill should be a tiny fraction of what is was. That’s good for us, but also good for the environment!

I’m also pleased all the niggling plumbing issues around the house have been taken care of … no more leaking taps or sinks or toilets that run constantly (unless turned off)… that means we won’t be wasting precious water (and already have low flush toilets) so that’s another step in the right direction.

There are a few changes I’m a bit less happy about.

We won’t be signed up for nighttime electricity rates any longer (though will probably continue to run the washing machine and dishwasher at night as it’s now a routine that suits us) … and more irritatingly our dishwasher no longer fills from the hot water supply but only from the cold (which means that is heated electrically by the machine itself) but apparently they no longer recommend having an either/or connection 😦

Still a few things to be done to restore order ..but an unexpected bonus last week was having to empty some cupboards and move the refrigerator which gave the impetus to give that a thorough clean!

We still need to put a few things back in place (including a shelf which was removed to create more space for the workmen) but currently we are focussing on a new fence in the garden …after which we can sort out the lawn. We will fill in holes dug by the dogs and ditches caused by the heavy machinery for the drilling of the 210m bore hole , scrape back some moss and reseed sections of the grass. Water we saved from the 2000l tank will come in handy then!

Children, paws and muddy boots …

(That would make a great title for a novel I think, don’t you?)

I have a bit of a confession to make: although I’m a Christian I don’t usually find church very welcoming. Most churches do have greeters, of course, but often the welcome is reduced to the distribution of the hymnbook or pew news, or in more contemporary church services where there are no hymn books or pieces of paper the welcome often takes the form of a perfunctory nod of the head or handshake. It is all rather unsatisfactory!

Many churches (of all denominations) often serve tea or coffee after the Sunday service, but that too isn’t necessarily a very welcoming event- more a safe space for regulars to meet and greet one another, rather than reach out to newcomers and strangers.

I don’t have an answer to this, and can’t really suggest a good way forward… if people aren’t naturally welcoming , in all honesty,

there’s probably not a lot that can be done to break the frosty status quo.

While in rural Derbyshire earlier this week I spotted this sign

I wasn’t there on the Saturday afternoon. If I had been I’d have happily checked it out. Any church that welcomes muddy boots and muddy paws has to be better than average at welcoming visitors. And a 30 minute -no sermon – service, sounds wonderful too!