Last updated on 26th November 2009
It's a little after 6.00am and I've been up and about for a while. It's the first morning of one of the four day residential peer groups that I've been coming too since 1991. This is the autumn Men's Group. In the Spring several of us also meet here in Cumbria for a Mixed Group. The groups are about friendship, emotional/interpersonal learning, a chance to get a break in the country. I love this time - with all its honesty, deep connections, pain, laughter. The groups can be something of an emotional roller coaster. I've written extensively about them before - both why describing these gatherings is relevant for a blog about stress, health & wellbeing, and also more detailed reports from last year's Men's Group and from the Mixed Groups earlier this year and from last year.
Leaving Edinburgh yesterday afternoon and driving down here was quite a journey. There was heavy rain and gusting winds. Motorway driving in the dark with big trucks throwing up blinding spray and multiple lanes of headlight-glaring traffic tends to get quite tiring after a while. There are 18 of us here for this group. People gradually arrived yesterday evening - several after extended journeys by road and rail services that had been disrupted by the weather. Our brother group met here last week with 16 people (2 had dropped out at the last minute). We alternate - with the full group of 37 meeting last year, two smaller groups of 16-18 meeting this year, and next year we've already booked a big old youth hostel in the Peak District where we can get together as a full group of 40 or so again.
I missed some of the initial sorting out discussions last night - I was collecting my son and an old friend from the local station. They were on separate trains, both of which were delayed. By the time we eventually got back to Fawcett Mill Fields, several people were already heading off to bed. Small support groups had been arranged for the morning - the names picked out of a hat. I'm in a group of five, mostly with old friends. This will be a change. It's usual for these residential groups to involve both "work" in the full group and also time in these smaller "support groups". It's been a while since I've been picked into a support group with so many old familiar faces. Interesting to see how this works out. Maybe our shared experience, trust and affection will allow us to go more deeply emotionally more quickly, or maybe our familiarity will nudge us towards too much comfort!
People are emerging. The day is getting going. It feels a bit like a Christmas morning - what will we find when we take the wrapping paper off the day!