A Quiet Space

a quiet space at the kitchen table

For a while, everybody seemed (or gave the illusion of being) busy, busy. Ask someone how they were and the default answer had changed from the previously “Fine” to “Busy”. Even people who were lucky enough from choice to work part-time or not at all were rushed off their feet. Being busy was a status symbol, a badge of self-importance to be shared on Instagram, Facebook and all the other social media channels where we tell the world how wonderful our life is. Interestingly, the follow up question of “Busy doing what?” sometimes revealed that they were just busy being busy. Busyness had become a self-imposed lifestyle.

Gradually people seem to be moving away from the need to feel busy all the time and are slowing down to find time for the things that are important in their lives. Recently, I was on a speed awareness course where people said they broke the speed limit because they were always in a rush*. Interestingly being caught had changed some people’s ways; one man had subsequently reduced the number of business appointments he made each day and a woman on our table revealed that she now allowed longer to travel to work instead of her previously optimistic hope of a journey free from traffic jams.


student's work from fabric printing class
student’s work from fabric printing class

In the Barley Barn, many of the people who come onto the printing courses are not necessarily coming to learn printing techniques but are taking time off work to be creative in a quiet space away from the hustle and bustle. The making and doing in a beautiful and quiet setting can be more important to them than the finished article that they take home.

Similarly, the yoga studio in one of our barns is amazingly popular and their meditation days are booked out well in advance. Many of the participants have commented that they start to unwind as soon as they turn into the farm entrance and find yoga more calming in a quiet space overlooking the pond and green fields than when they attend classes in the local community hall. I suspect they haven’t yet witnessed the ducks doing what ducks do in spring, which doesn’t fit in too well with the whole peace and love vibe.

This past week, a combination of wet and windy weather, the end of the financial year and the younger generation trying to put their stamp on the business has meant that my normally quiet space in the farm office has been invaded by the “farm boys”. Believe me, farm boys have no office etiquette and instead of drinking my morning coffee at my desk, I’ve escaped to a quiet space at the kitchen table and sat alone with my coffee looking out of the window. Rather like switching off and on a temperamental appliance to make it work, this has been enough to let me return to the office to answer their questions, find the bits of information they need, show them how the erratic photocopier works and get on with my own tasks without shouting at them or muttering under my breath about ineptitude, farting and talking loudly when some people are trying to add up figures.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a busy afternoon ahead with the Cocktail Tasting Team.

Do you have a quiet space where you get away from everything?

Would this help?

*I didn’t feel the need to share with the rest of the course participants that I was caught speeding because I was so excited about buying milk and cheese from a vending machine that I sped off from the dairy farm forgetting that the road had a speed limit.

22 thoughts on “A Quiet Space

  1. Anne, I remember when I was a lawyer being ‘busy’ was a status symbol. If you weren’t busy you had failed. It took me a long time to learn to say I was busy, whether I was or I wasn’t.

  2. I get quiet time on my walk to work, or when I walk the dog. I also like to stay up late and enjoy peace and quiet in my living room. I can’t help being busy with four kids and a full time job but it but being busy does not necessarily mean feeling busy. I am quite good at retreating into my own self even if all hell brakes loose around me. Decent headphones with an interesting radio programme blend out a lot of the the madness, sometimes I don’t even listen to what is being said, the programme is more like soothing sound, taking me into the zone. I guess it is like the whale song, but less annoying. Writing this makes me wonder if I am maybe a bit eccentric. If only your barns were closer to my home, I’d be having some of my quiet time there. I’d be an excellent cocktail taster. Cheese and milk from a vending machine? How intriguing, ours at work just does chocolate.

  3. I just had some great quiet time by being in a hotel by myself for three days. What a great gift. Walks and yoga classes are quiet time for me when I am at home.

  4. Busy … the most over-used word in the English language Anne. In my opinion, only to be used in relation to working. One cannot be busy getting ready for a holiday for example! Quiet spaces seem to be at a premium here in the midst of school holidays … but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I do enjoy early mornings before the masses awake, my little slice of quiet time for the day.

  5. I’m generally at home on my own during the day, just me and the dog. Even the two cats are out doing their thing. And, being freelance, I’m generally in charge of what I do so I can be busy or not. I do remember it being a thing, though, when I worked in an office, to be busy-busy all the time, rushing with stacks of papers from one meeting to the next. Don’t miss it one bit. Your yoga studio sounds lovely, as does your cocktail tasting task.
    PS I’ve been on a speed-awareness course, too, for driving too fast down the A2 coming home from Christmas shopping one year 🙂

  6. The cookies look lovely as does your gin. Do you ship to the states or sell here? I still hear people say “busy” when I hope at least they mean “fine.” But I get a bit of retreat every day and a big dose on the weekends when I can. Baking, gardening, sometimes just sitting in the sun with a drink!

  7. I listened to a podcast last night and at one point they talked about being busy. How some seem to have “demonised being busy when there is a big difference between being busy and being overwhelmed”. I agreed, and I also agree with you that many people use it as a badge of honour. My standard response when people ask how I am is “good, how are you?” I only answer “busy” when I’ve been flat-stick, so when they ask how I have been busy I don’t have a problem expanding.
    I don’t think there is anything wrong with being busy, but there is also nothing wrong with slowing things down. I think there should be periods or seasons of time when you are busier than others, but this constant high speed pace that the world seems to want to run at is a little crazy.

  8. Oh my, you have written a very thought provoking post. I am retired, just. I have got started on all the things I put off doing whilst raising a family and working full time. But the last two months have seen me with a feeling of increasing panic,how to fit it all in. I am once again BUSY. No, it’s not meant to be like this!

  9. I’m ok with thinking I’m ‘busy’ when I’m quietly busy. Busy reading a book, busy watching the bees and busy, watching sourdough starter bubble. It’s just not that frenetically busy and it’s because it’s what I like, not feel I should do. But then at work I’m ‘busy, busy’. Interesting comments about people coming for the escape and the experience rather than what they take-home. I’m thinking of doing SD bread classes and feel like I should more masterful but my husband says that some people are just looking for the change of pace and sharing. Maybe I should listen to him a little more. Thanks, lovely post 🙂

  10. I always have plenty to do! But as it’s of my own choosing, I usually do not feel busy. And I’m very fortunate to have quiet in my home. I used to listen to music while quilting but now rarely do. It suits me.

    Thanks for the post. I enjoyed it.

  11. My quiet space is my office/ library/ dining room, but because it has a few functions I sometimes don’t feel totally at peace, like I need to be always ” busy”. A nice walk is good for getting rid of the cobwebs, but sometimes baking is my quiet time too. I love that you were speeding because of a milk and cheese vending machine. , if there was a similar thing in our area I would be excited too. There is a veg and egg vending machine on a farm a few miles down the road, which I thought was a great idea for buying local produce and modern take on the honesty box.

  12. I agree that “busy” has become a far too over-used as a response to a “how are you?” question and funnily enough I’ve been pondering this a bit over the last few months and wonder if in fact “busy” has become a response which people default to also because it’s more neutral than committing to saying that things are “good” or “bad.” Avoids the potential shoals of a mismatch between the conversationalists’ experience that can jar. I am guilty of saying it myself, I fear, when I don’t want to reveal that actually I feel pretty down about things and don’t want to burden my listener with a litany of woes. You made me smile about getting caught out by a speed camera because you were excited about buying milk. I did exactly the same thing but it was on the way back from an artisan sourdough bakery! My quiet space is my garden retreat but it isn’t seeing much use at the moment. I must rectify the situation. Possibly with chocolate chip cookies in attendance like yours. E x
    Ps the green bread in your previous post looks lovely – what a good use for nettles!

  13. cocktail tasting – now, that’s a great thing to be busy with!
    I thoroughly agree with your thoughts (and your readers’) on the plague of being busy. it has become a bit ostentatious; sometimes people who say they are “so busy!” make me feel a teeny bit guilty for just pottering about and enjoying the quiet moments in life. the guilt doesn’t last long – I quickly realise I would not enjoy their “being busy” one little bit.

  14. Funny you should mention cocktails, we have just recommenced making martinis after the day’s end after 35 years of never having the money or the time, yes , always too busy. It’s delicious and most enjoyable.

  15. I have just started going to yoga classes at the ripe old age of……… hoping to stay flexible and more relaxed. I wish I lived near by, your venue looks wonderful, although ours has a large window looking out towards the Malvern Hills. Was that the milk vending machine in Norfolk that featured on Countryfile recently selling unpasteurised milk?

  16. This really struck a chord! So many people seem to be busy doing nothing in particular … I know I have days when I am not busy at all, but still things get done, and in a much more pleasurable way. Real ‘busyness’ is good, being overwhelmed isn’t, and making things to do to fill time is just silly. It is about attitude change, people think that it is somehow an admission of laziness if they aren’t ‘busy’ regardless of what they are or aren’t doing!

    I have to have quiet spaces – my main one is my walk every morning, the day’s plans get sorted, ideas clarified or sometimes I just decide what I am going to wear that day!

  17. Yes Anne, I am afraid I have been known to trot out the busy scenario, I have probably even done it on my blog. It certainly is an attitude, somehow busy makes us feel important. But, getting overwhelmed can be scary. Testing cocktails on the other hand sounds like perfect busyness to me! I am very interested in your milk and cheese buying. My vegetable garden or our horse yards are both my favourite quiet spaces.

  18. PS your biscuits look delicious and that tin is interesting. I have a similar tin, it has many parts that stack on top of each other, I may have mentioned that before.

  19. I agree about the “busy” sometimes being more of a way of trying to either give credence to what one is doing and at times, I believe that I will tell someone I have been very busy because somewhere in the back of my head I am feeling a little guilty that I have not been more in touch with that person.

    I like being “good” busy at work and at home. But having grown up an only child, I have always needed my quiet times and spaces. They have changed over the years as the boys grew, jobs changed, living spaces changed, and we moved. I cherish my time each morning and evening when I am doing my goatie chores! When the weather is clear, in winter or summer, I tend to linger out there well beyond my chore time, and just enjoy the goats and our pigeons, the trees and the sky, the frogs and whatever else is passing by in the natural world. When I don’t have this time, I get really grumpy!

    (And, I would just love it if your Slamseys were over here in the US! It sounds divine.)

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