Time out

Those of you who read NDT News every month will be aware that, although I am not a poet (well, not yet anyway; after my attempt in March nobody has urged me to pack it in!) I have made a few references to poets and poems in recent years. This is the result of family members whose love of poetry meant they would recite verses at any opportunity. Under such a barrage, it was inevitable that some stanzas would stick, without any conscious effort to memorise them, and would reappear at regular intervals. One such poem, which I have referred to briefly before, is Leisure by W H Davies. It begins by 
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?

and it ends with:
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Yesterday, waiting for the barista to make a frostino, I perused the local community notices on the shop noticeboard. One advertised ‘guided mindfulness walks’, detailing the various benefits as: social interaction, exercise, fresh air, forest bathing (no water involved) and time away from everyday demands. All of these provide both physical and mental health benefits. Luckily, I am able to get out into nature, generally on a weekly basis. This morning it did include forest bathing with water! The rain was that mizzle, a cross between mist and drizzle, that gets everywhere and is a comforting ambience to all brought up in North West England. While the main objective is exercise and raising the heart rate, I do take the time to stand and stare as required. In addition, my mind freewheels with no particular objective. I reap many benefits from this.

The week before last, I was lucky enough to attend the BINDT annual conference and exhibition, albeit for only one day. On the way home, W H Davies’ poem came into my mind. I find that the benefits of any conference, exhibition or seminar are many, but underlying them all is the ability to raise your head from day-to-day work and broaden your horizons. This leads to connections, which can subsequently feed into your work activities and generate improvements. Needless to say, the day passed very quickly. The first challenge was identifying the most relevant presentations to attend to catch up on the latest developments. A PowerPoint slide displaying a detailed equation from early-stage research on image analysis may not be the panacea that you have been searching for, but sitting and staring can trigger an unrelated idea. I, of course, have to scribble it down so as to remember it when I get back to my desk.

The NDT community is relatively small when compared to the larger engineering professions. Despite changes and retirements there is catching up to be done with colleagues old and new, including those just starting out. Each conversation provides an exchange of information to consider and absorb, although in these situations it is preferable to stand and listen rather than stare!

Finally, there is the exhibition of NDT equipment and services. This provides the opportunity to see the latest developments in the application of technology for all existing NDT methods, as well as some new ones. Having companies displaying side by side allows comparison of the different approaches adopted. Even if you do not have an immediate need for new equipment in your particular area of work, an awareness of current developments, changes and improvements provides a knowledge base and a head start should the need arise. It will also stimulate lightbulb moments when a problem is encountered.

I would suggest that all personnel engaged in NDT could benefit, both professionally and personally, from attendance at a conference and exhibition, because social interaction and time away from day-to-day pressures will reinvigorate motivation for the discipline. What forest bathing can do for general mental and physical health, NDT bathing can do for career-related mental and workplace health.

Please note that the views expressed in this column are the author’s own personal ramblings for the purpose of encouraging discussion within NDT News. They do not represent the views of Wood or BINDT.

Letters can be mailed to The Editor, NDT News, Midsummer House, Riverside Way, Bedford Road, Northampton NN1 5NX. Fax: +44 (0)1604 438300; Email: ndtnews@bindt.org or email Bernard McGrath direct at bernard.mcgrath@woodplc.com

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