We’ve just returned from a weekend in the countryside with my partner’s family. It was everything we needed; a change of scenery with a group of lovely people. And when I say scenery, I refer to the rolling hills of Malvern and the stunning landscapes that surrounded us.
We attended the Malvern Festival of Ideas, which was, as it sounds, a series of talks, discussions and activities led by various intellectuals on the topic of “A Brave New World”. “In a rapidly changing world, can we look to the future positively and with hope?”. Tricky.
I was mildly concerned there’d be nothing for Maia at this festival (which she had mistaken for a fayre: “Will there be rides? Will there be candy floss?”). But I was quickly proven wrong during our first activity, with the author and storyteller Bernadette Russell, who led us through various exercises and songs based around spreading kindness. They included writing down our wishes to place on a “Wishing Tree”, creating a literal hug to send to someone in the post, and praising others more.
Maia was a very willing participant, raising her hand at every opportunity. This was wonderful to watch, I was bursting with pride, and then this happened:
“Is there someone in here that we think needs a bit of praise?”
I feel it coming before she even turns to look at me.
“MY MUMMY!!” Maia says, pointing. Oh great.
I smile sheepishly, trying to show the room that despite my apprehension, I am more than up for participating in whatever it is I am about to participate in. I attempt to momentarily embrace the uncertainty of it all. She looks up at me, delighted.
I glare down at her as I go and sit at the front, a circle of eyes all on me.
Being centre-stage was not on my agenda for that morning, I was not in the mood, but after my daughter’s display of confidence, I could hardly refuse. Plus, you can never refuse in these situations. You go with it and trust that any embarrassment is probably imaginary.
Strangely, I have no problem performing on a stage in front of an audience, I absolutely love it. But small, intimate group discussions or activities I find oddly intimidating.
We did a brief praise-themed exercise where the group had to find words to describe me, starting with the letters of my name. I held back laughter when a woman said “E for elegant…”. Had she not seen the state of my boots? Or my split ends? Or my verging-on-Frida-Kahlo-style eyebrows?! An elegant woman keeps her eyebrows in check at the least, gets her hair cut regularly and does not don muddy boots unless she’s out walking the dog. I don’t have a dog.
Either way, I was in the end thankful to Maia for pushing me up there. I may not have felt particularly elegant but I did feel like a very proud mother, watching my daughter volunteer us both so effortlessly and with zero encouragement needed.
After a couple of ukulele-accompanied songs and a spot of tree-planting, we strolled onto lunch, then onto a talk on Marxist economics. Which I can safely say Maia did not appreciate. Though I was thoroughly impressed with her ability to keep herself occupied in silence.
The rest of the weekend was made up of lovely family moments, particularly between Maia and her new baby cousin Grace. Maia loves babies, so enjoyed plenty of cuddles (which were a little anxiety provoking, mainly because she’s not my baby. I was in hyper-vigilant “PLEASE DO NOT DROP HER” mode.)
All in all, a joyful and thought-provoking weekend, filled with love, laughter and plenty of hope for a brave new world indeed.