Hello – and sorry it’s been so long! We hope you’re enjoying the long, sunny days and warm evenings. I’ve really loved watching plants grow, smelling the lavender and roses, and sitting out in the garden whenever I get chance. Such a lovely time of year!

Since the last blog post, we went to my sister Marianne’s wedding up in Harrogate, which was a beautiful occasion! It provided a good opportunity to see family, too, most of whom we usually only see at Christmas.

Ben’s work at the café is still going well, and his monthly community coffee morning (‘The Living Room’) seems to be fairly well-attended and enjoyed by all. His one-day-a-week respite work is going well too, with lots of trips to restaurants and the cinema!

My work is ever-evolving, and I’m thankful that this week I’ve been given the title and salary for the job I’ve been doing for the last two years! This has been a shift over the last couple of years from Community Building (helping people to get to know their neighbours, to make new friends, to explore and implement their ideas for their neighbourhood, to start new groups and activities, to pursue their passions and use their talents alongside others in their area, etc) to mentoring and supporting other community workers from other organisations – while retaining a little of the Community Building work myself too – and some consultancy with organisations and groups that want to better understand Asset-Based-Community-Development (ABCD). It’s not been easy, especially as a number of the community workers I support have been consistently pulled in different directions by their employers/funders/stakeholders/managers. I don’t think this will ever really change, to be honest, and much of my work has been helping people find ways of growing in resilience and ability to gently justify their work to those around them. One big work-related change for me has been the office move – we are now based in central Cheltenham, in a beautifully-renovated building that looks like it’s come straight out of an interior design magazine! Transport is a bit of a pain, but could be worse.

Ben finished his counselling course the other week, and is now qualified up to Level 3. He’s hoping to do the Level 4 course at some point, but not immediately – it will be good to have a break from it. Our weeks were revolving around it – there was a session every Thursday evening, and homework to do that filled up every Wednesday evening, and one full Sunday each month, plus assignments and presentations to work on in between. It was a big commitment on top of everything else, and although the course was very stimulating, thought-provoking, useful and enjoyable, we were both glad when it finished! So after a year or two’s break, he hopes to potentially continue on to Level 4, which is a much greater time commitment (about 3 or 4 times the amount of time spent on the Level 3 course!) and a much greater cost too. We’ll see where we’re at in a year or two, and consider whether it’s a possibility at that stage. (At one point he was hoping to continue straight on to the Level 4 course in September, but the time and financial commitment, as well as the academic workload, led us to push it back – and then this decision was solidified by the discovery that neither of the two top organisations that offer the course locally will be running it this year!)

My painting courses, greetings cards and jewellery sales all seem to be continuing well, though I’m not looking for any new opportunities to expand it at this stage! I’m still speaking at WI meetings and the like semi-regularly with stories from some of the cross-cultural trips from 2012-2013, which is good fun and brings in a bit of income too. In recent months it’s been a struggle to find any time to paint (outside of teaching sessions with individuals and groups), or to write, so I’m now trying to cut back on some things in order to prioritise a bit of enjoyable rest – partly for the sake of my health, which has been variable. We’ve been spending time more intentionally learning Finnish, too, in the hope of one day being able to converse properly with some of Ben’s relatives in Finland, and perhaps one day even live there for a year or so.

Going ‘away’ to work somewhere long-term is still on the cards (since people keep asking), but as yet we still don’t have a specific place or project in mind. We’re in touch with a few favourite organisations about possibilities – but we also recognise that we don’t need to rush; that the time here in Gloucester working semi-normal jobs and learning lots is equally important.

We’d love to hear your news! Please do keep in touch, and let us know how you’re doing.

Have a lovely Summer!

Ben & Kat