What is being free? I am getting a sense of that at the moment as I slide freely along the arc of my new life.
Today I was sorting out my new business most of the morning then involving the local media in my pavement-problem (see last blog), meeting on the phone with a Trustee, lunching with fellow East Anglian social entrepreneur Robert Ashton, visiting the Southgate Partnership (the new development trust I have helped set up) and finally sealing a speaking gig in 2011 where I am to appear alongside either Mark Steele or Mark Thomas (I am not sure who scares me most). In between all of this I manage 40 lengths at the local pool, dodging between canoodling teenagers and the occasional "bomber" (remember those?).
Today's highlight was probably Robert Ashton. We met at Elvedon, just in Norfolk about halfway between our homes. Robert has been quietly building an international reputation as a social entrepreneur through his achievements in Norfolk, his books (about ten so far which sell by the truckload across the globe) and his public speaking (see www.robertashton.co.uk).
Meeting Robert was great. We have a lot in common - running, writing, speaking a rather right-off sense of humour - and it is soothing to meet a kindred spirit. On a practical level, as fellow East Anglians, we have a shared landscape and I can easily imagine working with him.
There's also something I enjoy about the folk from our world with roots and lives outside of London (not that there aren't people in London who I deeply enjoy too!). Rob Greenland up in Leeds. Martin Kinsella in the Midlands (though increasinly everywhere). John Niland in Essex. Martin Clark in Cambridge. Rob Harris in Manchester. The list goes on. There's a welcome detachment from the "she's up, he's down" world of central London, where the utterings of politicians are given disproportionate weight. Further away from the capital, there is a sense of proportion and healthy scepticism about the daily drama of the capital.
I spoke at length with Robert about being free. He's been his own man since the age of 35 (he's now mid 50s). One of the best things for him is not having to compromise. Good for health, both mental and physical.
I am inclined to agree. All of my mates who work for big organisations, even as CEO, feel owned and controlled by their jobs and employers. The higher paid - over 100k - particularly so. Lack of control seems to be very damaging to human health, something I first observed about 20 years ago among people with learning difficuties - and now among my friends with weight problems, booze issues and mild depression.
All people who are, for want of a better word "owned", not free.