Back into the Liberal fold #3
Manchester Gorton – Making a Difference!
Getting one`s `work-life balance` in order is difficult at the best of times but can seem a strange concept when you have been retired for quite a while!
How often have you heard a newly retired person say, “I don`t know how I managed to fit work in, I am so busy these days!” Usually this is a result of pent up demands on the “life” element of the work-life balance suddenly being released by the freedom of not having to seek paid employment.
For those of us who had, or have, a paid job which didn`t or doesn`t really seem like work most of the time (amongst whom I am pleased to report I often felt myself to be) it was always more a question of ensuring the `life-life balance` was kept in order. Thus, the process of retiring seemed more an issue of changing the priorities of various tasks.
The reason this topic is at the surface of my inner thoughts for this blog-post is that I have been reflecting on how my re-involvement in political activity is different from my previous political incarnation from which I retired about twenty years ago. My ambition to “change the world” propelled me to become an approved candidate in my early twenties and for much, though not all, of the (political) time since then, this meant I had responsibilities towards various constituency organisations for which I was the prospective candidate, whether that be parliamentary divisions or the larger European seats in which I was involved.
Most of you reading this will know, of course, that a PPC`s responsibilities extend well beyond just turning up to meetings and spouting about political topics as and when you feel like it. In a small party, often with organisational limitations, such responsibilities have included things like booking the rooms for the meetings, setting the chairs out, cleaning up afterwards (and even locking up) as well as attending committee meetings etc.
Perhaps the luckier, larger, constituency organisations might spread those responsibilities around, but most candidates would then fulfil “people-managing” roles of encouraging volunteers to get involved as much as possible, but this would also probably entail helping to set the chairs out and clean up afterwards too (did I already mention that?)!! Never mind the many interminable meetings talking about, and organising, fund raising efforts such as jumble sales and sponsored walks etc.
Of course, there was the enjoyable side too, of sociability of all the events, whether they be barn dances, sponsored walks and, in my case locally, the very successful Valentine`s Evening parties we held at our house. Once, I recall, we even had a string quartet playing classical music in the lounge here! The music was provided by students from the violin making course based in Newark – they were very good too.
I also very much enjoyed the canvassing roles I had, interacting with the voters and it has been that aspect I have been enjoying in Gorton constituency. This has reinvigorated my political soul and made me feel as though I have recaptured my ability to “change the world” again, instead of sitting moaning (blogging?) on the sidelines! The key benefit, now, from my point of view is that I do not have to worry myself about organising or recording the canvass cards and returns.
I have also enjoyed sitting in the Gorton HQ writing blue envelopes and chatting to passing Lib-Dems similarly engaged or who were collecting leaflets to go and stuff through the letter-boxes of Whalley Range, or wherever. But I have not had to worry about making sure the leaflets were ready to stuff in the blue envelopes, or make sure the next leaflet to deliver was at the printers, or empty the recycling bin when it started overflowing. Nor have I been responsible for locking up, although on two occasions I was the first non-key-holder to walk through the Gorton HQ door
On the social side, I also enjoyed Jane Brophy`s curry evening in Oldham constituency, which was delightfully sociable, meeting up with old friends Keith and Mary Pendlebury (thanks for the overnight accommodation there Keith and Mary – great to see you again) but I did not have to plan the evening nor, indeed, clear up afterwards!
So, really, I have been enjoying all the benefits of being involved, but without the responsibilities associated therewith. IT`S FUN!
And, since I am not planning to take on a PPC role again (`at least for the moment`, he adds cautiously!) nor any burdensome official roles, I really am able to enjoy the fun bits without the drearier aspects of worry and organisation. So, a big shout out of thanks to Elspeth McCobb and Chris Lovell and David Hennigan and Anna Fryer and, of course, to Jane Brophy and Jackie Pearcey for letting me enjoy myself, over there in Greater Manchester and Gorton.
I just hope I am actually managing to help as well as have fun!
So, coming back to my starting point of getting my life-life balance in order, I have to say it feels good to be back in the Liberal fold again.
And, talking of life-life balances it was lovely to meet up again with Keith and Mary`s daughter Rachel, now the mother of a teenager herself but who was only about three years old when I was in Oldham originally. My late wife Tricia and I lived in Chadderton when I returned to Manchester to do my post-graduate research and we got involved with Oldham Liberals.
At that point, we were still referring to Tricia as Pat, I recall, so when we went to Keith and Mary`s for meetings, or coffee, or to collect leaflets to deliver, little Rachel would often answer the door as we arrived and shout into the back room “It`s Keith `n Pat”. It was also delightful that, if there was JUST me, or JUST Tricia, at the door, three-year-old Rachel would still shout through to the kitchen “It`s Keith `n Pat”. I have never been sure whether it was our closeness as a couple which engendered this greeting announcement or whether it was more simply to do with the world view of our three-year-old door opener. Whichever, it was always lovely, so a big thank you to Rachel, too.
Finally, with reference to three-year-olds, it was a great pleasure to spend some time with my three-year-old great niece, Eleanor, whilst I have been over in Manchester canvassing etc. I stayed for several days with her mum and dad, my niece Debbie and her husband Andrew, in Sharston and one sunny spring day we went out to Lyme Park for a visit.
So, the picture here is of me and Eleanor sitting on a low tree branch in Lyme Park, ensuring my life-life balance is in the best of order. Thanks, Debbie and family, for looking after me.
And, thank you, Ellie – you give great cuddles!
And finally, finally, calling all Lib-Dems out there. If you REALLY want to make a Difference, get yourselves over to Gorton and help. We believe it will be a Game-Changer!!