Category Archives: Parenting

How far can one’s life change?

On 24 August 2016 I moved to the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset. My aim to start a new teaching job, live in a dream property in a fantastic part of the country. To rediscover more time to spend with the family, to get outdoors and to regain more stability in my mental health.

About 7.5 months on plans have changed but my life has changed so much and for the better too. If you regularly read my posts this will repeat some points from previous posts.

I moved to live alone while issues to do with our family home in Essex were resolved. I was in a beautiful house, surrounded by countryside but only 15 minutes from work. The weather was generally good to start with. The job offered much. However, it didn’t work for me on many levels and it didn’t help my mental health at all.

Living alone was a shock after so long – 25 years. Lack of communication with no landline, mobile signal, or broadband was a big upheaval for someone who spent so much time networking and communicating with others online. I developed work resources using online contacts and sites previously. Now I was forced to go cold turkey and I didn’t cope well with it. I would joke when ringing friends and family from nearby country lanes where I could walk to get a signal that all was ok. I genuinely didn’t miss tv and now still only watch a few programmes, often recorded first. The contact gap with familiar voices however was much harder.

Work, well there was a lot of change and the above aspects that were already impacting on my mental health were exacerbated by my limitations in not being able to do much work from home, something I had relied on previously. I admitted some of this but not the true nature of my thoughts as I feared being removed from the post. The only harm I would have done would have been to myself but my moods were on a much steeper rollercoaster than previously and the dips were frightingly threatening to my own mental stability. I also hid this from home, a mistake but I loved the area and knew the house had potential for the family. Unfortunately I got to the point, linked to previous experiences, where what I saw as criticism became a stick to beat myself with emotionally and a path to recovery got to the point where it was no longer an option. I had to make the job work or teaching and I would separate at last, that scared me as I did not perceive that I existed beyond my label as teacher. Well in November after the family had been here a fortnight the job crumbled – I did and I lost teaching as part of my life. I still have bad dreams,sometimes even nightmares about educational settings normally a jumble of places I have worked. It will take a long time to let go fully as 28 years and a term took a lot from me.

So what has changed?

I live in a beautiful house with three other family members – my wife, younger son and mother in law. Everyone has now settled in and we are starting with the better weather and lighter days and evenings to get outside and work on the garden more. The house has the services (still no mobile signal) that It lacked when I moved here. We have grown into it.  I would say we are all happier generally for the experience and look forward to seeing more how the area changes through the seasons.

Work – I am now working as an artist, I endeavour to sell some of my work, I have a Facebook page, an art blog. I have signed up for classes, craft fairs and the local arts weeks later on. I have met many very generous local artists and crafters who are willing to share experiences and advice on resources and services. Also I have a part time job that involves being in and out of water in the River Frome at Wareham, I love that aspect. Work is not stressful as before. I still be the chance to use my teaching skills when helping coach juniors at the Swanage Sea Rowing club.

Anne,  my wife and I have spent more time together since she moved down five months ago than we probably have throughout our marriage of 24 years as I am not working 60 hour weeks, lots of my work is done from home. It has helped our relationship which is now in a better place. I know Vi my mother in law much better and at 95 she continues to be an inspiration in her vitality. My son Charlie and I have had more time to go and do things together which I hope isn’t too much of a bi d for him, I enjoy it.

Fitness – I was told I could join one club when I moved here, the fact that at a few points  I have been there six days a week didn’t impress but it has brought me a much fitter health. I have made many new friends and I love that training has now moved back o to the sea after a winter on the ergos in the rowing hall.

Mental health – thank you to my new GPs at the Corfe Castle surgery who have been very supportive, alongside the great Swanage Depression Support Group whose company I enjoy bi-weekly. Being able to shed and share has helped a great deal and they have commented on how much I have changed from my start in November. New acquaintances have even been surprised that I have a mental health issue as I do t present that way currently.

In the last week I have reflected that I have made more friends here than in the last 27 years. I am happy. I love my surroundings. I continue to learn new skills and things most days. Life has a future, I don’t know completely how it will be but there will be ways that don’t involve creating extra stresses.

If you get this far please comment or say hi on social media, in the street….

Reflections…ongoing

So it’s Sunday. Yesterday was a positive day. A week in which I lost two days to very deep lows both linked to seeking support from secondary care mental health services locally, seems ridiculous that applying for help causes more uncertainty in my self esteem. However, as a couple we have fought this battle many times with social services, post adoption support … We live in a country where needs often are not or can not be supported, but to access the services that are available you have to demonstrate great #stickability which of course is difficult if you are already struggling and also on your confidence in challenging systems or professionals in their own field.

So this reflection bit, based on my first five months in my new home county:

– I love Dorset and especially Purbeck. I now live in an area where countryside and coastlines are readily available and are so beautiful. My and family interests in leaving behind the suburban traffic noise we lived amongst previously are not missed.

– my job here did not work out, I did not fit into a particular close knit team, c’est la vie. I loved actually teaching the pupils, I would liked to have fitted into the team but it wasn’t to be and I made the wise decision to pull back straight away in the circumstances. 

– I have made new friends and acquantances already by talking to people I meet and especially through the companionship I have found in the Swanage Sea Rowing Club. I get to exercise three or more times a week, I am allowed to help coach junior rowers, so the teaching aspect is still there.

– at last we approach completion of the sale of our property in Essex which brought much stress and tension from July to October especially. This means we are financially stable and will be able to look forward and make choices without the burden of mortgages etc.

– my wife, Anne, very sensibly suggested that after 28 years without any career break I might take a work break and readjust. I have been revisiting as constantly felt I should be back working,  but having removed teaching which I have used to define myself for so long, there must be a break and I think today that I have actually accepted it.

– my mental health has dived lower for an extended period than ever previously but I am working at it. Anne is being very supportive as we work at our new life together. Next we apply for the local “Steps to Wellbeing” programme, we have found a very supportive GP practice in the Corfe Castle Surgery. I have joined the Swanage Depression Support Group who are a great group of people with whom I have a common demon. I am going to work to fight the suicidal thoughts and response to flee that went through my head especially in the period mid September to mid January, honesty is helping with that.

– I have had an alternative therapy approach to solving shoulder issues which has made me look at how my body works in a new way and it has been a positive experience.

– I was given lots of supports by some of the local artists especially Sue and Kate during the pop up beach hut season on Swanage seafront in the run up to Christmas. I have booked a table for April 1 – no, it’s not a joke for @AndyKnillArt to see if others want to buy some of my photography and / or art. This idea foundered for a while with the mental health dips but I hope to see it move forward this year at whatever pace I can cope with.

– we are renting for the first time and the property is fab. A dream to live in the countryside and see a range of wildlife every day,this gives a great sense of privilege. It brought its own lows at first when I was here on my own almost rattling around. Anyone know an easy foolproof way to earn a £one million so that we could stay here forever – I like it that much. I have dug out paths long hidden under overgrown rough grass,started to look at skills I can l learn locally so that I can restore features like the drystone walls. I was going to keep a record and will do this where I will map the property as we learn more about the fauna and flora that we live amongst.

– shared places, I mentioned that we love Purbeck – from National Trust properties at Corfe Castle and Studland  beach, Swanage bay and headlands at Ballard Point and Peveril Point. Durlston Castle and national nature reserve with its links to local heritage and quarrying. Country pubs like the Square and Compass and Scott Arms. Walks out onto Houns Tout,Swyre Head where we can look out over the Jurassic coast and the local diverse geology.

and so on and so on and …

I came off Twitter,five years of networking and around 8500 contacts. I am fine without it, I have read 
books again, I have joined the library, I try to be outside in the fresh air at least once every day. I stopped blogging but as you can see it is a reflective outlet, so it’s coming back like this post. Thanks for the feedback from new readers and for acquaintances from education and so on who are part of that Twitter legacy.

I still use FB but cleared 400 contacts out, a more select circle that will grow again slowly I am sure but with me in a far better place to use it and keep life in perspective.

I think I have rambled enough for this post, let’s keep seeing how 2017 goes, onwards…

Feb 14; March 8; March 18;all in 2015

December 22, 2016

This is a sequence of posts that are ongoing. If you want to read previous posts seek out the dates above.

Parenting – something to aspire to. I did with my wife and after many obstacles in August 1998 we became parents to our first child. He was 2 years, 3 months and we were adopting him. Subsequently, we also adopted his younger brother aged 1 year in February 1999.

Parenting has been educational. Our children through no fault of their own inherited some characteristics. By the nature of the starts to their lives they had other obstacles to overcome. We have learnt much, dealt with many ups and downs.

My previous posts focused on a phase our eldest went through and started to emerge from. We are at a distance as parents now. He is an adult. My mother’s funeral on Thursday brought us together again. There was sharing of happy memories and grief, overall a positive experience.

Unfortunately later during our journey for Christmas in our new home things unraveled again. I can not say more at this stage for reasons outside our control. Two days later, going into Christmas Day without him, there has been dejection but also much reflection once more. I, unable to sleep, have reread those posts.

I go into Christmas 2016 unable to hug my eldest as I had posted I did in 2015. I do not know what lies ahead, but I do know that I still choose option B and I still love him, even though the physical distance may be longer, the ties that bind us are still not broken from this side at least.

I hope he has a Christmas that he can enjoy on some level as we will at this end.

I still love you son.

Tomorrow I am …

Thursday 22 December 2016 I will be:

– the eldest son of Pauline and Michael Knill

– older brother to Liz, Kate and Richard

– husband of Anne

– dad of Jonathan and Charlie

– nephew, cousin, uncle …..


Who I am as posted recently won’t matter because I will be at the funeral for my mum Pauline Knill. I will be there to honour and say thanks for her life. I hope to be able to support others within the family as we celebrate her many achievements.


My own mental health has not helped in the lead up to this event. Tomorrow I want to be strong for myself and others.

My niece Caitlin has put together a slide show on iMovie with images from throughout Mum’s life and the biggest thing throughout was her smile.


I have inherited many things from Mum. I followed the same profession. I care for colleagues and pupils at times of need. I get involved with service to others through volunteering. I do too many things often. There are more links. Some that I would recognise and others that I might have not noticed.

I would like to thank family and friends for their support in the run up to tomorrow, it is one of those life moments you know will come when you attend the funeral of a parent, but not a time to look forward to.

Pauline Knill

14.07.35 to 04.12.16. RIP

A chance to talk

I watched the news this week when a piece came up about a closed group on Facebook for men with infertility issues to talk to each other.it was a clear video report and I went away to investigate further.

I have admitted to a  number of things about myself through this blog over its time. It truly is a mishmash into the ongoing process of life and learning about new things and about myself.

Yes I am infertile. There it’s said. A dark secret held onto for many years that has tortured me for various reasons that I have probably created more myself but like Mental Health a secret held onto for many years.

I now have a forum where I can talk openly. I am not sharing those conversations here but it is another valve / release for negativity that has helped my mood lift this week. Not because infertility has been a relevant issue for me for a long time but because it is a skeleton ejected from the cupboard of my mind.

I have been lucky in meeting friends able to talk about their mental health openly and we look out for each other.

Do you have skeletons in your cupboard that you would like to set free?

New life approaches …

At Easter the family went on holiday to Swanage. While we were there I saw a new school building and looked them up online. Intrigued by what they offered I looked at their vacancies not expecting anything of interest – but there was a Humanities teacher post. The curriculum and structure appealed. So I rang the school, the headteacher was in school while year 11s were revising, what time could I be there…I walked (10 minutes from the cottage) and Mr Hobson greeted me and showed me round, I also met Mrs Gray – humanities lead. I was interested but the holiday was why we were here. In the second week prior to the GA conference I posted off my application.

The week of the 25th April saw me travel down for interview – I would be teaching about War and Peace to Year 8. I had researched and come up with an idea – a walk along the Purbeck Ridge above the school pointing out historical features for tourists or locals. I travelled down the afternoon prior to interview day and sent a pleasant evening down busy the beach watching the sea rowing club and sailing club out at play. Wednesday saw me take a 15 minute walk from my hotel to school. Four of us on interview, not all younger as I had anticipated – I stood a better chance now, I thought. An interview, a student panel, a free lesson (one candidate had dropped out), teaching year 8 and I had what I later described on my drive back to Essex as my best day possible. I had done all that I could, yes I really wanted this job and new lifestyle but would understand if I didn’t get it. Well, Thursday I had set off to work when the phone rang – yes I was successful.

In the last two weeks and three days I have had all my checks done, signed my new contract, resigned from my current school, had a weekend in Swanage for house viewings, made an offer on a property and had it accepted, put our house and my mother in laws on the market and one has sold already…oh and started clearing the loft – two journeys of a whole carful done each time to date. Life is changing….fast. 

A life at the coast beckons, the speed things have changed at is quite mind boggling. I am looking forward so much to the next stage in my career. I am also looking forward to a slower pace of life, lots of fresh air, strolls on a beach 15 minutes walk from our new home.

I will track this adventure as we move to Swanage. If I seem to be gloating I am not I am just so happy about this new adventure.

Stick your head up high and wait …

Enough … Is a post I wrote on http://Staffrm.io this weekend. As a parent, teacher and mental sufferer the three were thrown into hiatus with the political decisions about funding for disability payment reductions in the budget, declaration that all schools should become academies and the school day should also be longer. Both of these buy into my own anxieties as the parent of two adoptive sons with additional needs who I want to be able to support towards more independent adult lives. Also as a teacher I see my work/career subject to whims that are not well argued for and a cause of unnecessary. Hange for myself, colleagues but more importantly for successive cohorts of children who are used as Guinea pigs for politicians to tinker with.

So I wrote a post and I have then actively sought online support from many that I know / have met / follow to see if they would agree to share it further. The article will be promoted throughout the next week as we head up to the Easter break. This afternoon it has hit about 1500 views in a weekend an achievement I have never made with a post previously.

As an experienced teacher and parent I believe it was time to make a stand, what do you think?