Like many people my mind is always full, busy, racing and at times overloaded. It’s full of family, the day to day things, ideas, clock watching, memories, limitations, the weather, problems, recipes, housework, life, wellbeing, health, people and also solutions. Family and friends ask me for advice, recipes, inspiration, opinions, books, things, stories, a mug of coffee, pocket money, support and solutions. Strangers make conversation with me in queues or on trains, in passing. People I don’t know ask me how I am each day. Social Media is ablaze each day with people who live in my phone some asking if anyone wants a cup of coffee or glass of Prosecco, offering bacon sandwiches or responding to a tweet or status. People talk and engage each and every day in a variety of different ways. I talk to the telly from time to time, I listen to the radio and agree, sing along or disagree.
I like being able to offer solutions and I’m known as The Solutioneer, it’s what I do and am good at. I can moan like the rest of them but I can also offer solutions, they might be bonkers or spot on but I give it thought. I hate the phrase thinking outside the box or blue sky thinking but when a problem appears I try and remove myself from the immediate and look around to see what resources I can bring to a situation.
This morning on BBC Radio Berkshire Andrew Peach was talking about the closure of Reading Bridge and the impact it will have on everyone who uses it as well as those who don’t use it but will be challenged with the increase of traffic as drivers seek to find a route that doesn’t involve leaving home at 5am or arriving at a destination late. I phoned in as I normally do and said I had an idea. As I said some of my ideas are bonkers but some are spot on. I think my idea was spot on! The bridge is to be closed as I have said and this is a ridiculous time to do it, it’s exam season and stress levels are high. So the bridge needs repairing but in this instance the solution is bigger than the problem. My solution is a simple one – provide shuttle buses either side of the bridge so that those who normally use the bridge can at least cross it by foot and catch a lift the other side.
Some years ago we had roadworks in Wokingham and a friend of mine who regularly used the dug up road was going to be hugely inconvenienced. She was talking one evening about how she was going to juggle a detour AND get her children to school on time AND get to work with time to spare. I kindly (stupidly) suggested she dropped her children to me and I would get them there, she needn’t get caught up in the roadworks and we would all have a journey walk to school. That worked well and everyone got to where they needed to on time, we spent the journey chatting and we were gently exercising.
I’m regularly incensed by drivers and parking around school so decided to look into organising a Walking Bus. The council did the risk assessment on the route I suggested, I did a parent consultation, sorted routes and rotas, organised everything, involved the press and we set off for our first Walking Bus with a cameraman and journalist. The children enjoyed it and each time they walked they had a stamp on their card which when full entitled them to a free swim at Carnival Pool. The council went one step further and allowed the parents using the Walking Bus to meet at the library car park and gave us free parking permits to use whilst the bus was walking. We were joined by the Police, councillors, teachers and the press – even on that awful day in July 2007 when the heavens opened and we all got soaked! But we walked in whatever weather, reduced the traffic around school, took gentle exercise, the younger children chatted to the older children, people made friends and stress levels went down.
Years ago a health visitor (HV) was suggesting ways in which to get my non sleeping child to sleep through the night. I tried every idea thrown at me a warm bath, chamomile or lavender bubble bath, lavender cream on toes/chest/behind ears, warm milk, gentle lighting, calm story before lights out, warm milk and then did controlled crying but ended up exhausted. I felt like my child had all the control and I did all the crying. HV asked me if the solution was bigger than the problem to which my reply was a big fat yes, of course it was. HV kindly suggested that I stopped trying to fix something that was both knackering and exhausting us and fretting our child so I nodded in tearful agreement and thought about it. I thought about what she said and realised that YES the solution wasn’t working and intact was making the problem worse. So we stopped with the controlled crying and put said fretful child into our bed where she slept all night. Result. Although we had been woken up once and had got out of bed once, as soon as she was in our bed she drifted off to sleep and we slept too. Waking up after 6 hours sleep to a toothy grin and a gurgle was the bonus.
Sometimes the solution is bigger than the problem or it’s staring at you but you can’t see it, or sometimes the solution is simple yet effective. Whatever the problem there’s got to be a solution and a solutioneer.