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This gentle mirror

Newsletter: October 2021

Greetings again, web friend

It’s been a while and I write now beneath an autumn sky of beautiful blue; and after a day with the staff of a company called Freddie’s Flowers. Do you know what they do? The clue is in the name: you contact them if you want some (lovely) flowers delivered. Though other flower sellers are available obviously…

And I was with them because they employ the Mind Clinic to support their staff. And with the magnificent Mark Godson and Natasha Malby, I look after the Mind Clinic.

So three times a month, I see six of their employees one-to-one, as they step bravely from their working day into a listening space, where they may well start to cry. For here they can talk about anything they want. ‘I don’t know where to start,’ is a common opening line, as is, ‘I’ve never done this sort of thing before’ – and then off we go. Were would you begin?

The Mind Clinic was started about seven years ago with Rob, a friend of mine and a brilliant entrepreneur. Without Rob, nothing would have happened. He had the vision of offering therapy in the workplace, ‘which is where most people spend most of their lives, Simon’; and also the ability to get in front of people who could help make it happen. (This is not an ability I’ve ever possessed. In my life; I’ve never known or found these people, let alone got in front of them.)

It was a pretty mad dream at the time. No one else was taking face-to-face listening into the workplace. But since then, we’ve worked in all sorts of companies and organisations, including schools, recruitment companies, clothes retailers, hospitals, stationary companies, fresh food providers, IT companies, even – and you must promise not to tell – a very famous cathedral where staff relationships weren’t all they might be.

Our strapline is the offer of ‘safe, confidential, insightful listening.’

Safe means, ‘I don’t have to edit what I say.’ We spend a lot of our lives editing, depending on the company. We don’t wish to offend someone or upset someone – or perhaps we have a reputation to consider and don’t wish to admit to certain things. What will they think of us? So sometimes it is liberating to speak with no filter. ‘It’s like a weight lifted from my shoulders!’ is a common response after people have unburdened themselves.

Confidential means that no one is going to hear of what is said. We are not part of HR, passing things on to management; or anyone else. We can only be so honest with our line manager. After all, it’s their job to report back on our performance, so we’re going to be cautious. But we tell no one. The Mind Clinic is confidential.

Insightful means a clear mirror being held up to our lives so we can see them better. It is very hard to see our lives because we live inside them. But when another holds a gentle mirror up to them, we can see so much that we hadn’t seen before, and make better decisions as a result.

People book their slot online, so no one else has to know. Though, as we’ve discovered, for those under 40, there is no shame is seeing a counsellor and they speak of it very freely around the coffee machine. (For those over 50, it’s still a matter of a bag over your head; huge embarrassment and the feeling you should somehow ‘just get on with it.’ Even if ‘it’ is destroying your life.)

So that’s what I’ve been doing today, and it’s topical, given that it’s World Mental Health Day on 10th October. And I do like one charity’s slogan for the day:

‘If we all do one thing, we can change everything.’

Read more here: The Mind Clinic

Meanwhile, my new Abbot Peter mystery, A Hearse at Midnight, has appeared in the world. As the title implies, the world of the undertaker is a significant part of the story, drawing on both my own experience of this fascinating trade, and also on the insights of my wife Shellie, who, after years managing a Children’s Centre in London, finds herself as a funeral arranger in Seaford. (No one is more surprised than her.)

Read more about the book here: A Hearse at Midnight.

And I should say that the funniest undertaker story in the book, involving a particular casket of ashes, is entirely true.

And now a familiar author’s plea: if you have read Gospel: Rumours of Love, or A Hearse at Midnight, and feel able to review it on Goodreads, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Barnes and Noble etc. – thank you. And then thank you again. Reviews are the life-blood of a book’s ongoing story, bringing another’s insight and experience into play and keeping it alive in the public domain. It also cheers the author in his lonely garret, bent double with cold over his typewriter and half-drunk instant coffee.

One reader recently emailed me after reading Gospel, Rumours of Love. ‘I just finished Gospel: Rumours of Love, Simon. And I wept. Thank you for this book. I can’t say more than that but it is nowhere near enough…’

And that’s a review! They can be longer, of course – but don’t have to be.

That’s probably enough for now. Should you want a little bedtime reading, here’s a (very) short story called, Will the Messiah arrive today?!

But now the autumn, golden October, and beyond. As nature lets go of her summer clothes, I hope the leaves fall well for you and the wind blows kindly through your life.

We’ll do our best.

Simon x

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