Category Archives: News / blog

June 2017, April 2018 and now tonight

This has been the worst post-teaching nightmare ever – I died in the school building, my SLT covered it up and I never got home to my family, most importantly to my wife.

At the moment I am meant to be distracting myself with some “silly games” but my mind won’t let go of my feeling of resentment that I taught until I broke, so the last time was definitely a “breakdown”.

People have said nice things and paid compliments and I can accept some of them but I am conscious that my professional relationship with senior managers unravelled in four schools in my career. The ones where I also suffered breakdowns as I tried to balance being a workaholic with being a parent of two young men and having a loving and very patient wife. I wasn’t there enough for my family.

I have shown myself that all the times I thought maybe teaching isn’t for me that I can and have done other things, not to a standard of supporting a family but I didn’t have to keep the label “teacher”.

I am left with many questions, questions I should ignore, blank as they don’t really need answers, or they can’t change anything.

The positive, in all of this I no longer feel the need to end my life, that is a huge difference to some of the lows since I left teaching.

For others, if you are in teaching, have had a breakdown, struggle with mental health please be careful. Self care first, family if you have one second and teaching third. I never got that order right.

Politicians and all your jibes at the teachers who are not in the Outstanding schools do not help. We now have a national education system rife with mental health issues for staff and students – that is not success.

Why blog? Because it is still cathartic for me, I know few people will see my posts, it doesn’t matter, it’s my blog and I can define success. Now for a hot drink and some point I will try to sleep again and hopefully this time I will wake up and live on.

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Purbeck Valley Folk Festival 2019 up to drawing 1.

This is the biggest local folk festival to us, previously I have been working and we haven’t investigated it. However this year the Saturday headline act was the Afrocelt Sound System whose music I have been listening to since the 1980s from recordings by Real Music. Also we previously saw Moishe’s Bagel at an Artsreach concert in Corfe and members of the groups have been interchangeable previously.

Anne and I booked our day ticket for Saturday – luckily for us the poor weather was on Friday and we had a dry sunny day, the poor weather moved back in as soon as we got home last night.

We arrived and parked up and made our way down to the farm having collected our wristbands and a programme. A first point of gathering our bearings – there was a singing workshop in the Long barn which sounded great and a Morris dancing workshop in the Big barn. We sat, drank our first hot drink in our new bamboo reusable cups.

Long barn singing workshop

Big barn

Then we set off to explore the Market area and Fire Stage field. On the way we saw the hay bale caterpillar and various photo opportunity boards.

The second photo looks up the Purbeck Valley towards Kimmeridge with Kingston and home on the left and Corfe on the right.

We looked about the market area meeting local friends and drew on pebbles with the Milmer family. We also saw Jessamy Keily from the artisan yard. We then settled down and listened to The Fox and The Owl followed by Tashkezar, the latter more manic and resembled many tracks I have at home. While they were both playing I worked on my first sketch (drawing) of the day.

Can you? Would you? …. Yes / No

These questions and similar became the bane of my life in the past. I had the tendency to say Yes when I should have said No. Our family social worker when adopting over 20 years ago used to say to Anne and I, “can’t you two just be?” and often the response would be no.

Why? We had plenty on our own plate with my career’s demands and the needs of the boys and … but often we found scraps of time to support others because by working as a team we could back each other up. Eventually it started to backfire and we started to say No more often, or attend meetings and sit on our hands so we couldn’t volunteer to do more.

So when my career crumbled back in 2016 – see previous posts from November plus 2016 and April 2019 – a change of status… the answer had to be a definitive NO.

Life has changed since.

From November 2016 I joined the Swanage Depression Support Groups and then helped when the Wareham Depression Support Group started. These two groups were part of me taking control of my depression and working to improve that aspect of my life and its impact on those around me. Eventually after about 18 months to 2 years I found hearing many similar stories over and over was not helping my recovery. I still attend when my life wobbles, we have hosted the May social for the last three years and now, particularly, my free time means that if a meeting’s cancellation becomes likely I am happy to stand in and help by facilitating the meeting be it in Swanage or Wareham. I did one of these back in May for Swanage and last night I ran the Wareham meeting. Groups like ours are not run by professionals but fellow sufferers who speak from experience, we support each other and we welcome others who need friends in their time of need. Last night reminded me yet again how special that link is.

Wednesday had been due to be a quiet and restful day only through a combination of circumstances I needed up attending a meeting in the afternoon and evening too. I actually came away refreshed mentally from both of them.

So what did I do in the afternoon? The first working group meeting for Artisans on the Beach 2019. Yes meeting in June to discuss the beach hut arts and crafts event for December. An event which exists to encourage locals to develop with their hobbies.

In 2016 I sat on the seafront with new friends very fresh from my November breakdown and leaving teaching, I drew a piece of the Swanage Beach Huts – my first piece to sell in 2017. In 2017 I took part, I was almost hyper at times, energetic, enthusiastic, drawing out in the fresh air, wearing outfits that caught people’s eye and I ended the event as ‘Artisan of the Year’. In 2018 I had become one of the two Artisans on the working group and we added some changes and structures to the event which continues to grow by reputation for participants and visitors.

In 2019 that role continues – my art hobby has become “AndyKnillArt”, I do two main events a year with PAW (Purbeck Art Weeks) and Artisans on the Beach, I also exhibit and sell my work year round as a member of the Purbeck Artisan Yard, it will never be a full time job, nor will it stop me pursuing other ideas but it is a channel through which I share my creativity and I love it.

So…?

I attended two meetings …. I said yes. Does that mean I now say yes to every opportunity / query? No, I don’t. I need my free space to explore, relax, enjoy. I have earnt that right after 28 years teaching, after 20+ years of parenting and seeing both our sons live elsewhere.

Moving forwards

I am investigating more ways to use my motto “ArtForFun” where I host activities for any age to do some art for the joy of it, no judgement, mindfulness, relaxation, … whatever suits. This is also not going to turn into a ‘crusade’ that sucks me into overcommitting myself timewise and emotionally. I will do it from time to time, e.g. every time I do a duty at the artisan yard I post on the AndyKnillArt Facebook page so that passersby can drop in and have a go. When I do events like PAW and Artisans on…. then I can offer it again. I don’t want it formalised into an activity which engages all those officialdom forms and risk assessments and … been there, done that, thrown away the uniform. As the ‘tag’ suggests it is about “fun”.

Many years ago after working in outdoor pursuits prior to my pgce (teacher training) I adopted the motto “Life is not a rehearsal”, I now have time to enjoy my life, I live in a location where I can enjoy my life, I have Anne whom I enjoy life with. So sometimes I will answer yes to queries. Often I will say no because I need my enjoy life space now.

For you

Are you a yes, a no, a mixture? Volunteering makes our society work. It is the glue that supports communities. Please consider saying yes occasionally, but at a scale that you can cope with.

Thanks for reading

Andy

Family reconnections

On Sunday my cousin Fiona arrived for a short visit to ours. Fiona is my only older cousin and previously we had seen each other at weddings and funerals. Also when I was working in Berkshire many years ago and attending college reunions I would pop by when driving back east. This year she has taken on a fund raising challenge for St Mungos and their work with the homeless. She and Fizz her two year old collie are aiming to walk 1000 miles.

As part of the challenge she has tackled her technophobia for a good cause and she and Fizz have a Facebook account to share their walking adventures. She had come to Dorset to explore our area and add some different miles to their record.

It has been wonderful over the last two days to get to know each other better than we have ever done before. Anne and I have had lots of time to chat with Fiona and of course to admire Fizz.

On Monday Fiona, Fizz and I tackled part of the SW coast path. The view planned would offer great views from the Isle of Wight to the east and the Isle of Portland to the west.

Yep, sea mist spoilt the view, which I still pointed what lay out there, even if we couldn’t see it. ( some of my art showed what had been missed later). A mild day and good for walking. We did an eight mile walk from ours, along the Houns Tout ridge and then down the steps to above Chapmans Pool. Fizz coped very well with both the steps and the slow humans.

Then around the valley bottom to Hill Bottom and up onto the cliff path out to St Aldhelms Point. The valley of steps led to suffering for Fiona and I, Fizz just ran back and forward between us.

We visited the chapel on the headland where Fizz took advantage of the cool stone floor to relax for a rest. Photo opportunities outside the chapel then on past the Coastwatch post and the radar memorial (WW2 site of extensive radar development work).

We explored the old quarries at Winspit and made our way eastwards. Fizz was happy to pose by some drystone walls which will provide more art pieces at a later date. We continued to Dancing Ledge and walked down to the ledge above the pool where we watched a coasteering group jumping in then regrouping.

Then a long slow slog up the hill and over at Spyway Barn to reach Langton (Matravers) and a well event drink with Anne, then fish and chips on the seafront at Swanage.

On our return home Fizz enjoyed a well deserved rest.

Tuesday saw me cycling off to work for my boat shift. Later I was visited by Anne, Fiona and Fizz. They had a walk by the river Frome where Fizz kept disappearing in the reeds apparently; they visited the Purbeck Artisan Yard and provide food for lunch which as was delayed in eating as I had a sudden rush of customers. Fizz spent some time with me while the ladies visited the town, he was very popular with customers and passers by alike. A meal out last night with Fizz resting.

Today we are going to head into Swanage this morning and meet up with Charlie before Fiona and Fizz return to Sussex. It has been great to spend time together and get to know each other so much better, shame it has taken to our 50s but there we are. We will be visiting Sussex next that’s for sure.

Skills and interests that reappear

When I was teaching especially from 2004 to 2014 I did lots of IT (school term ICT) based work both in terms of subject content taught, responsibility posts and developing ideas and presenting at Teachmeets etc.

Having grown up essentially pre PCs once I could access the technology and use it to enhance my teaching I did lots of research and tried out many ideas. This led to swapping ideas with education colleagues globally teaching a range of ages. I became a geek or nerd, not sure which. Two aspects I really took to were the use of apps to enhance teaching and the use of the tools and capabilities of Interactive whiteboards.

After leaving teaching many of my IT skills were neglected. I now use my excel skills to organise my finances and art stock. I have always had a smart phone and tablet, usually iPad so have used apps but nowhere near as much as I used to.

The slow death of the family laptop meant a new home computer was needed so I decided to buy something which would help with photographic and graphic work to use alongside my hand drawn art. My first iMac. I also wanted to be able to draw and add work onto computer apps, at first I thought this would need to be a graphics tablet like a Wacom costing hundreds of pounds. Luckily despite such items being advertised in the Apple store they weren’t stocked in the Apple shop I visited. I decided to delay the purchase as I enjoy the use of pen and paper.

Reading an Apple magazine this week it talked about a new opportunity the new iOS 13 and macOS will offer at the end of the year using something called Sidecar. Not available yet so today I did some research and found Astropad Standard that essentially allows me to draw on the iMac using my iPad as a graphics tablet in effect but for under £30 so I have invested and look forward to developing my designer and photo editing skills with both Apple devices that I have.

This will be an extra with my art and I may invest going towards 2020 in a good standard photographic printer so that I can produce work of a suitable standard to offer as part of the AndyKnillArt portfolio.

It feels positive to reuse skills I had started to develop while teaching. At the same time I would still prefer to spend the evening watching a deer or Hare graze in the garden than sit in front of a monitor for hours, so we will see how this develops.

So art Weeks finished…

Hi, two weeks of sitting at home waiting for visitors and what the weather will throw at us. Purbeck Art Weeks (PAW) 2019 was my third time opening my home studio in the outbuilding to the public, it was a fantastic success with visitor numbers rising from 271 last year to 428 this year. Sales also increased by 50% with many more sales of prints and originals. Also I sold over 300 cards in 16 days which was just mind blowing to me.

My mental health – in a good place, I am now comfortable with the tag of being an artist. On reflection the amount my art has progressed ,and I have to, since the end of January 2017 is amazing for me.

So back to work at the boats from this weekend and many art ideas to follow up on.

Exercise has slipped badly since the trip to Canada and I have not been doing my Freeletics programme. It is something I need to work back into. I am cycling most of the time at least one dir cation for my boat shifts most times. This summer isn’t as hot as last year which suits me better, I just need to get out there.

Just a sort of catch up for anyone who still looks at this blog.

Art focus

I am currently running my Open Studio (22) as part of the Purbeck Art Weeks (PAW19) and am blogging daily with linked posts on Instagram – @Andy.Knill and Facebook page – AndyKnillArt.

If you wish to see the posts there are all linked on the Facebook page or http://www.andyknilllart.com.

My art started for my mental health and mindfulness – it still is and I am keen to spread the message that “Art is fun” at all events that I attend.

Andy

Rigorous training starts

Since the post I just posted I have invested in a year’s coaching from an online app called “Freeletics” had looked at it a number of times when it was advertised on Facebook and Instagram.

I am walking more, I have used both my bikes already but I need to improve my fitness, size of midriff and flexibility. I used to have a great exercise ethic when I was younger where I would exercise, often to the point of addiction and keep very fit. Age has slowed that and I have widened as I like my food but the exercise drive has dwindled hence previous posts.

So I have invested in this app to get me out and exercising. In week one I have done four workouts. Each has involved warming up and cooling down exercises. I have already challenged my breathing, flexibility and core strength. I have completed a number of exercises that following instructions drives me one more than I can do for myself. I have also done two 400m runs and an 800m one.

A positive start, I am not going to publish the weekly photos of my shape until I complete my first 12 week programme.

As there is a rest day between each workout I have held off doing other activities this week but will add those in so I am out walking, cycling, kayaking etc in addition to the workouts.

Please follow my progress and see what my “stickability” is.

Changes in plans

Plans are meant to be flexible aren’t they?

So 2019 started with an old Andy habit – want to show something is happening – make a spreadsheet / logbook. I did this to show I was exercising more, Anne questioned why I needed a spreadsheet for that and to be honest she was right so that method has gone.

In January post-beach huts event I found myself fighting germs that had not been “allowed” to kick in during the event. Fitness dropped as previous posts said. I have pulled back from training at the rowing club as others are training towards the Scillies in May and are getting fitter and fitter, the gap between us kept growing so own exercise was needed.

Anne and I are doing a few more walks locally – recent examples are parking in Worth (Matravers) village car park and walking down to Winspit, exploring the old quarrying area then walking onto Seacombe on the South West Coast path and then back to the ‘Square and Compass’ for a pasty and some live music.

Pictures above show climbers and other walkers visiting Winspit.

After walks or cycle rides or even kayak trips I use ArcGIS Explorer to measure the rough distance covered, it is also good for sharing with others about routes to take.

The next walk was along ‘Houns Tout’ and as it was a calm day, we descended the steps towards’ Chapmans Pool’ then returned up the valley towards Kingston.

We have had a sunset walk along ‘Houns Tout’ and saw no one on our way to the bench at the end where we watched the waves and sun going down. We only saw one couple on the way back too.

We have just changed phone contracts and invested in Huawei P20 Pro cameras each with a Leica linked camera which hopefully will show in the quality of pictures taken.

We have also had a few walks in and around Swanage including a sunny morning sat at the end of the pier which led to some sketching time. It was good to stop and rest at the pier shelter.

The recent mild weather also inspired me to be out on my other bicycle, not the fat bike but the cyclocross one. I had seen and heard about the bike track through Rempstone forest but it was an area I had driven along the edge of but not explored. For some reason my phone app did not record the distance correctly, the map shown is from ‘Explorer’ again.

An incomplete circuit because I tried to do too much, this is not new as people who have exercised with me know only too well, but I do like to push the boundaries. So a descent down Kingston hill which I am gaining confidence on, through Corfe village and onto Norden and the road across Hartland and Middlebere. Then I left the road and took the bridleway / National cycle route 2 that cuts across to a Studland in the east. Loose sand sections would have suited the fat tyres better. Lots of stopping to unfasten and refasten gates. The scenery was great I saw a few other people out on foot and bikes. A chance to see Poole Harbour from the southern shore.

At Studland I cycled up towards the village and then took the road past the Pig at the beach hotel, and the Banks Arms, the road was busy with cars and pedestrians. I made my way out to Old Harry Rocks then cycled up until fatigue kicked in and had to walk for a while across Ballard Down. The views appeared hazy but the coastal landforms were still clear.

A picture at the triangulation pillar and then I descended some of the bridleway into Swanage, it became too steep and risky for me so I dismounted and walked. A break in Swanage and an ice cream. Then I set off for home. Langton (Matravers) hill was a slow process with many stops at the side to rest, I refused to dismount. Then once just past Burngate I realised I was wiped out, a phone call and my friendly bike taxi came and collected me.

All in all a positive difference and more exercise – enough?

See next post…

A geography teachers skills can be transferred…

See my latest art blog post for how my geographer roots help my art.

Art post