Director's Blog

‘The season between New Year and Valentine

Has no remembered name, belonging to a

Savage god, whose rituals outlaw fireworks,

Trees, feasting, trees or excess of any kind.


It’s a raw time, a daily drag to push apart

Late dawn and early dark to find some light…..’


 *Jane Seaborne


It’s gone. The season between New Year and Valentine which has ‘no remembered name’ the time of resolutions, the deep mid-winter, the gloom and the cold.  January and February can be difficult months for most of us as we try to find some light and any vestige of warmth from the low sun.

It’s also the time of year that I receive requests from staff to carry over more than 5 days leave from the previous year to the new leave year. The reasons are varied and genuine and some are unavoidable. 

This year I received even more than usual and if you add on those staff who are carrying over up to 5 days leave I reflected on such a lot of missed opportunities, time that could have been spent during the year with children, other family members or quite simply, ‘me time’ just ‘being’ instead of ‘doing’.   

Those with caring responsibilities may try to hold some leave days back in case of unforeseen events or emergencies towards the end of the year, only to find that, as with many employers, we go the extra mile in our policies for time off in an emergency.

I believe the real issue is that we just don’t think about ourselves and plan our time. So if you haven’t used January to reflect and to plan time off, well there is a still some time in February.   

In in an effort to get this message across to the HR team I devised a patronising little ditty which each year brings a groan of disapproval.  It goes something like, ‘What comes after January, o surprise, surprise it’s February. And what comes after February, yes, it’s March’ and so on until we get to December (although we don’t often get past March!).  It’s a simple message every year there are 12 months ahead, and 2017 is no different from 2018 and so on…….

You owe it to yourself to plan ahead.

And for the HR team it’s definitely working for some; there are plenty of examples of people thinking ahead, taking time off in January or February for themselves to do something different or thinking ahead about how to spend their time during the rest of 2017. And me, yes, I’ve booked a riding lesson in February – how many of you knew the University offers such things as riding lessons?   There are lots of opportunities out there so, it’s your time. Don’t waste your leave. Plan it. 

And the end of Jane’s poem says it all;


Drawn, we plough on over the rutted fields.

Although there was no music,

And the earth was caked with frozen snow,

Coats open, we danced, and in spite of the season,

We kissed beneath the mistletoe.


The poem is Under the Mistletoe – Air and Earth by Jane Seaborne, a Wolverhampton based poet. ‘Under the Mistletoe’ is one of a series of poems titled The Elements.


Sue Chambers

Director of Human Resources