Category Archives: VA

Time is of the Essence – –

Jack uses a time management tool to get his post up on time –

When I was first promoted (to everyone’s surprise, including my own) to head of the construction department at Lauder College in Scotland, I was immediately overwhelmed by the tasks I was faced with. But eventually two things saved me.

The first was learning how to delegate, which more or less happened by accident. What I learned was that, given half a chance, people will take on tasks if it’s something they enjoy and if they feel competent to do them well. As long as I remembered I was still responsible it worked.

The second is really what this post is about –

A member of the senior management introduced me to a time management tool that has stuck with me ever since. I later discovered it’s called ‘The Eisenhower Matrix’ and many variations have evolved over the years. The closest to the one I used is pictured above.

I used this tool so much that eventually I didn’t have to put it on a white board on my office wall – it just sat in my head.

After I retired I continued to work as a self-employed training consultant, so the matrix continued to be my fundamental template for organizing my work. Even when we moved to Big Stone Gap I was running a bookstore, organizing a Celtic festival, an annual group tour of Scotland and still gigging – so time management was still important.

You might think that after closing the bookstore, the Celtic festival and moving to Wytheville that I wouldn’t need a time management aid, but I still find it hovering – even with everyday domestic tasks.

The only thing is that I’ve no one to delegate to anymore, although when it comes to looking after our vegetable gardens Wendy tells me I’m management and she’s labor.

Finally – I am and always have been a serial procrastinator. So given the choice between vacuuming the floors or checking FaceBook  – – –

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

An American Stranger

Jack fails abjectly this week – Wednesday post on Friday – –

This post is about the attitude of some Scots towards Americans and why –

Wendy in Scotland

When Wendy came to Scotland twenty five years ago and we married, she was finishing her PhD in Folklore from Memorial University of Newfoundland. She had worked for years as a community based storyteller and her dissertation examined professional storytellers in Great Britain, Ireland, Canada and the US. When she arrived she set up a group non-profit called Storytelling Unplugged with local storytellers that also used storytelling in the community including a children’s’ hospice, but began to encounter some problems from the cultural establishment. This was partly anti-American, partly professional jealousy and partly because I had recently divorced and (wrong) assumptions were made. Although Wendy was creating more storytelling opportunities for more storytellers, the anti-American sentiment during this expansion even included “don’t all Americans want everything bigger?” She got tired of it and turned to writing.

Colin in pensive mood

My old friend Colin moved from Aberdeen to Fife in the 1970s and we became compatriots on the musical scene. A fine singer who had helped organize the Aberdeen folksong club, he had driven buses there during his summer vacations. So when I started my small group tours of Scotland he was a natural to drive the seventeen seat minivan. But he was a retired teacher of English Lit in the local high school and then of communications in the community college and had a keen ear for language. Having lived in the US for a while I had learned to ‘code-switch’ between British English, US English and Scots and Colin very quickly learned to do the same. He made many long term friends among my ‘tourists’, although I could never persuade him to come and visit here. Despite his fondness for Americans, he never cared to see America.

Mike in contemplative mood

Another old friend was Mike who had played keyboards, pipes and whistle in my folk band. He did visit us for three weeks and charmed everyone he met. He had rented a car for the duration of his visit and delighted in getting out and about, even getting lost a couple of times. He was happy to play whistle and speak some Gaelic to a class I was teaching at the time. Although a devout Catholic he was very ecumenical and while with us he attended our Quaker Meeting, played a piano prelude at the Presbyterian Church and was mistaken for a visiting Priest at the Catholic Chapel. Once Mike went a day journey that had him asking directions everywhere, and everywhere he asked, people offered him hospitality if he didn’t think he could get back that night!

What to make of all this?

Well – Scots abroad certainly seem to find welcome signs wherever they go, and I’ve definitely experienced that. Whereas Americans abroad often find go home signs – particularly if they’re seeking to settle down. Scots like Colin and Mike were willing to ditch any prejudices and simply meet folk as they found them. The only time I ever encountered any hostility in the US it wasn’t cultural or even ant-immigrant, although it could have been seen as that. Just like Wendy in Scotland I ran up against someone who felt their little world was being challenged and their piece of the pie might be cut a little smaller, rather than enlarging the pie.

Isn’t that interesting? Of course it has no relevance to anything happening in the world today, or in America….


Filed under between books, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, out of things to read, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch