197: Ipswich

OS Explorer map 197, Ipswich, Felixstowe & Harwich: Woodbridge & Manningtree – I do not own this map, and had not visited it before starting this blog. Visited for this post 2nd October 2019. Note: I’d previously visited Woodbridge, in the overlap between maps 197 and 212, and decided to count it for map 212. However that visit was only provisional under The Rules, since if I visited an area unique to map 197 before a unique part of map 212, my Woodbridge visit would “flip” to be for map 197, rendering map 212 would become “un-visited”. In a blog first, that is indeed what’s happened now with this visit to Ipswich!

Like Leicester a year or so before, I came to Ipswich in order to attend a course for my work. I was still at the same job as previously, but the company had grown a fair bit in that time, going from around 14 to around 25 people. The course in question was a two-day Mental Health First Aid course. At work we’d recently done some kind of diversity and inclusion survey, of which one part was that people were asked to rate how useful they thought various initiatives would be that we could start. Me offering “office hours” to generally support staff, and going on some mental-health-related course to hopefully make me good at supporting around such things, was a well-received idea, and so off I went.

Ipswich building
A pretty-looking building in Ipswich

MHFA is a pretty popular qualification to get, and the courses run all over the country. They happen in Cambridge pretty regularly, so I didn’t really need to travel, but the Ipswich one was available much more quickly and at a convenient time, and I wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity to travel somewhere new on expenses; so Ipswich it was. The course was on a Thursday and Friday, so I booked a room on Airbnb for the Wednesday and Thursday nights, and on Wednesday afternoon, got on a train and made my way to Ipswich!

Arriving at the station in the mid-afternoon, I had a few hours to wait before I could arrive at my accommodation for the night, so I wandered around the town for a bit, before settling upstairs in a Caffè Nero for a couple of hours, to do some work and some not-work. Ipswich seemed like a fairly pleasant place – I wasn’t particularly wowed by anything in the town centre, but it was generally nice, with the occasional pretty building here and there, and generally seemed healthily busy.

Some Ipswich shops!!

My accommodation for the night was an Airbnb of the room-in-someone’s-house kind, a 20-minute walk eastwards from the town centre (conveniently, the same rough direction as the course venue). Upon checking into my room, I was very pleased to discover that the house had a cat! He was a very raggedy-looking ginger, who evidently had a very strong habity of mashing his forehead against things (in the way that cats do to humans), since he had a big bald patch on his head, where he’d clearly done such forceful and frequent head-mashing as to wear away all the hair!

The next morning, I made my way over to the course venue, namely the events room of Ipswich Indoor Bowls Club. This made for interesting surroundings – to get to the room, one would walk past the bar and playing area, and the giant windows into the playing area ensured we had a view of any game that was going on throughout our sessions. The playing area was a giant, low-ceilinged room, with a flat bright green felted floor, and bright clean white walls and ceiling; the players were mostly of the old and white variety, and were also mostly dressed in white. Altogether, this gave the scene the slightly surreal feeling of being some low-budget television satire version of heaven, à la The Good Place.

I with the Airbnb cat, caught engaging in his signature head-mashing maneuver

The course soon started, and took place as planned over the next two days; I have to say, it was really intereesting! As one can guess from the title, the focus was indeed on first aid – i.e. what to do in sudden mental health crisis situations, to do what one can in the moment. A lot of the course was therefore about understanding various kinds of serious mental health condition and crises that can result from them; things that it is or isn’t helpful to do in a crisis, who to call for help and so on.

Now admittedly, this knowledge wasn’t particularly what I’d have been most interested in seeking out – to the extent that I did any mental health support at work; it would be much more about ongoing support to people with mainly rather less acute health situations. Like just sort of being an understanding ear; linking them to useful resources, or enabling work accommodations to better fit their health – time off, flexible working, talking to their manager about management style and so on. And I must also admit that, writing this a year and a half later, I don’t think I remember a whole lot of what I learnt anyway.

A local footpath that was on my route between my accommodation and the course venue

But still, I found it really interesting and I do think I learned a lot – I knew really barely anything about mental health conditions other than anxiety and depression before the course, for example, whereas now I know at least a little more about some of them than just the name. I also think there was still a good effect at work in that having the qualification probably helped make me more of an approachable figure to talk to about such things.

My course-mates (I think there were about eight of us) were a diverse bunch; there was teacher, a builder, an estate agent, a civil servant. I was in the minority for being someone whose role at work had something to do with pastoral support; the others were there more in the way the course intended: i.e. a few people in a workplace should be mental health first-aiders in the same way a few people are physical first aiders – to help in an emergency, but without their job necessarily having anything to do with care otherwise.

I and Che friend in question,sitting in Ipswich’s branch of Wagamama

While I’d had a quiet evening in on the day I’d arrived, on the Thursday I met up with a friend from Cambridge who was now living in Ipswich. We wandered the town for a while before settling on Wagamama for dinner. Now, I’m not normally the biggest Wagamama fan, but I was excited about it this time because I’d heard that they’d recently started doing some dish that was vegan, but had something sitting on top that had been made to look like an egg. I was pleased to discover that this was indeed true – it wasn’t particularly anything like an egg in taste or texture, but it was visually pleasing!

Wagamama’s no-egg egg effort

And that was it! I came back from Ipswich on the Friday evening, after the second day of the course had ended, now theoretically a qualified Mental Health First Aider – a fact that has taken pride of place near the bottom of my LinkedIn page ever since. I enjoyed the course and the excuse to travel, and in the end, there was one other, indirect benefit of going: afterwards, our marketing person at work wrote a post for the company blog about the company’s efforts to be nice about mental health, mentioning me in the context of my having completed the course. A year later, when I’d moved to the job I now work in, I found out that my new manager had seen that blog post while deciding who to hire and had been impressed by it. So maybe going on the course helped me to get my current job!

A proud, freshly qualified Mental Health First Aider!

Previous visits

I’ve been to map 197 exactly once before, namely the visit I made to Woodbridge previously, in the overlap with map 212 – which, as you read at the top of this blog post, initially counted as for map 212, but has now “flipped” to count for map 197, since I’ve now visited unique areas of map 197 but not 212.

However, while that Woodbridge trip now counts as a previous visit to this map area under The Rules, there’s not any need for me to write about it here, since you can read about it in my previous post about it. Do go ahead and do so, it’s a good one!

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