Susan Oman writes from her fieldwork tour of the UK:
As I stir I grow nervous, wondering at the unknown characters I am to meet today, and further daunted by tomorrow’s ambition, a ‘mountain marathon’, no less. Yesterday’s golden sunset which bathed the Black Mountains has receded into notorious low-visibility Welsh drizzle, clinging to the hills in a sodden embrace. I am in a farm nestling between peaks and sheep and as I turn over I glance at a book I’d ignored before sleep last night. Called Everyday Life Through the Ages, I note the relevance of its title, as I prepare to meet members of the Powys Family History Society* on the first day of what I have spent recent months calling ‘Oman on tour’.
At the River Café (not that one) on the cusp of the River Wye and the Brecon Beacons I find a lively bunch, abundant with personal and local history alike. I intuitively locate familiar themes of place, belonging and community in what they say; but am mainly struck by the time devoted to describing ‘everyday participation’ when asked ‘what matters to you?’ While I cannot recall anyone saying ‘everyday’ or ‘participation’ exactly, hobbies were enthusiastically listed; with words such as, ‘leisure’ and phrases such as, ‘a sense of achievement in gardening’ discussed at length. Given that my application to the UEP PhD studentship imagined the pervasiveness of ‘everyday participation’ in narratives of well-being, to hear people describing these things (unprompted, I must add) a year and a half later is both a relief and a delight.
Over the next few months I shall travel back and forth across the UK from Cornwall to Aberdeen, Derry to London, and much besides (I did say I had been calling it #Omanontour), to listen to groups and communities on the subject of well-being. After today I feel poised in anticipation of further impulsive narratives of everyday participation, as people outline what matters to them. I can but only hope that all those I meet are as generous with their time and stories as those from the society today. Roll on a town fair in Nottinghamshire next week is all I can say.
*All who took part in today’s group were happy for me to mention the group in this post.