In a few short weeks, my daughter Taylor will be heading back to University to begin the final year of her degree. Given how fast the last two years have have become discarded calendar pages, I am well aware that in no time at all she will find herself balancing on the precipice of the world of work about to throw herself into whatever career she intends to pursue.
There lies a problem. She has very little idea of what she might want to do career wise.
This summer, at the risk of unsettling her and possibly damaging the family harmony, I strongly encouraged her to get her ostrich head well and truly out of the sand (by sand I mean her laptop and her head is nothing at all like that of the large flightless bird) and face the problem now.
Taylor wasn't happy about it but she did see the sense in it.
She started investigating work experience placements and planning things to do that would help build her confidence, get her out meeting new people, experience new things and hopefully create more opportunities. She also got a book from the library about careers in accountancy because it seemed an obvious career choice for a mathematician with a methodical, logical approach to life (maybe too obvious).
When a too good to be true offer from her father for an extended work experience placement in his company in Portugal turned out to be exactly that - too good to be true - she had to deal with her disappointment and start again looking for an alternative. I was so delighted when she was offered a volunteer position in the office of a local organic farm owned by the Fordhall Community Land Initiative.
As a family, we are familiar with Fordhall Farm. We support the Spring Event that they hold each year and despite a commitment to a vegetarian diet, my husband and I do occasionally lapse and enjoy the wonderful Gloucester Old Spot pork sausages sold in their farm shop. This summer, we took our two little ones on one of the farm trails around the fields. It was muddy but wonderful. I love to see my kids encountering the simple pleasures of the countryside, even if they do come home with soggy socks and cow poo on their wellies.
Taylor dealt with her first day nerves and began to enjoy her sessions working at the farm. For me it was wonderful to see her driving off independently (once my husband insured her on his car). She is only a little thing and it is easy to forget that she is actually twenty years old. Having her take the driver's seat was a good reminder!
Fordhall Farm held a Beer and Music Festival this weekend. During the week leading up to it, Taylor was helping out every day. Proving the point that taking one opportunity often leads to others, she was offered the chance to sing on a small acoustic stage in between the acts on the main stage.
In turn, this created an unmissable opportunity for me to attend the 'FordFest' and see my daughter perform. I hadn't planned on going on account of already being signed up for a rather punishing 7 mile multi terrain race organised by the army the following day. I put the thought of trying to run after a day of sampling real ales from eight different breweries as far out of my head as I could, and put myself at the mercy of FordFest!
I couldn't have been prouder of Taylor when she played the guitar and sang, with big sister Liberty providing vocal harmonies.
A highlight of the day was when one of main stage acts failed to turn up on time and Taylor was asked to take his place. It is one thing to play a few acoustic songs inside a small tent - quite another to stand in the main focal point, unforgivingly amplified, apologise for not being who everyone was expecting and then launch into an unrehearsed set. I think Taylor was relieved when the missing artist finally turned up but I thought they did a fantastic job of filling in.
I thoroughly enjoyed sampling some of the selection of ales on offer. Despite the fact that I chose my ales on the same principle I use for selecting the shade of emulsion paint when I decorate and when backing a horse for the Grand National ie I like the name, I didn't have one dud. Shropshire Lad and Lass from the Woods brewery had to be on my list to try in honour of the county I am proud to call home. Calcutta 1757, a new brew from our local Joules Brewery, is one I hope to have a pint or two more of in the not too distant future. I had to try Hobsons Old Prickly just because a 5p donation was made to a hedgehog charity for each half pint sold. There was definitely an inverse correlation between the amount of half pints I drank and how much I cared about the possible consequences for my run the next day. I added Three Tuns Solstice, Titanic Iceberg and Lymestone Seven Stone Weakling to my list of conquests.
As well as the beer and the music, family fun with Jester Jack, sack racing, welly wanging and barrel rolling competitions were offered as entertainments. Jester Jack provided the opportunity to try out 'circus' skills such as juggling, stilt walking, devil sticks, plate spinning etc. It was great fun AND I learned how to hula hoop.
Taylor's boyfriend won the barrel rolling competition and was presented with a bespoke trophy (much to our great amusement).
It was a wonderful day. It may not have been quite what Taylor imagined when she first started looking for work experience, but for me it was perfect.