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Tom came to teaching with one goal in mind – to be an inspiration. He continues this mission by providing workshops for students and teachers in all aspects of learning to learn.


Think it worked

It did...


It started with a ..... cake!

Tom Barwood

Apologies to 'Hot Chocolate' for ruining the opening line to a great song but needs must and to avoid any further confusion here is the cake. It is a banana yoghurt loaf which I made with my eight year old son.


It was made from this recipe which I wrote down 26 years ago.

Whilst I was staying on this farm in New Zealand (just outside Nelson on the northern western tip of the South Island).


So what does this have to do with anything you may ask? Well, my son and I made the cake in response to my wife and daughter making one and both of us feeling the need to even up the household cake making gender balance. To avoid having to ask for help I reached for a recipe I felt confident with.

During the course of the cake making my son asked where the recipe came from and how I had learned to make it and hence I told him the tale partly retold above. How I ended up staying on the farm and what it lead to are the interesting bits though.

I ended up staying there as a result of cycling round the South Island by myself and getting to a point where I simply could not cycle a pedal stroke further. (To my credit I had virtually circumnavigated the whole S. Island by this time following the route below - starting from Christchurch and done some fairly big distances over some impressive topography e.g. The Southern Alps, Crown Ranges, Canterbury Plains).

The owner of the farm saw me sat outside his farm and kindly invited me in for a cup of tea. I very gladly accepted and then ended up staying for nearly ten days. The farmer in question, Stephen was one of the most original and eccentric people I had ever met and staying with him was fascinating. 

Apart from teaching me how to make cake he also enrolled me into becoming a WWOOFer (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) where, in return for your labour you are given food and accommodation and the chance to learn more about organic and, in this case biodynamic, farming.

For those of you of a more esoteric inclination you may recognise that much of this resonates with the 7th insight from the Celestine Prophesy by James Redfield.

Waving a fond farewell to Stephen after my ten day stay I made my way to Nelson and from there onto Napier on the North Island to take up my next WWOOFing post at the Hohepa Camphill Community.

Based on the works of Rudolf Steiner (an Austrian philosopher, playwright and artist who lived between 1861 and 1925 who founded a spiritual movement called Anthroposophy, which works on the basis that children's creative, spiritual and moral dimensions need as much attention as their intellectual ones) the community sought to provide community living for adults and children with 'intellectual disabilities'.

This was nothing like I had ever come across before but it was as if it was meant to be and that stay has shaped the rest of my working life for the last 20 years.

I am now at the point of wondering what to do next. The appetite for the type of workshops I provide in schools seems to have faded , education budgets are minimal and frankly I feel as if this part of my mission is done.

The reason why this was all so potent for me is that it made me realise where I have been going wrong in my search for what to do next. Essentially I have been trying to fit myself into other people's ideas of who and what I should be and that is only serving to make me feel anxious and uncomfortable. This was neatly summed up for me in Thom Hartmann's book on 'Adult ADHD - how to succeed as a hunter in a farmer's world'

What I have realised is that despite all my best intentions I am, at heart,  an adventurer, an explorer, a dreamer, a storyteller, an opportunist and without doubt a hunter. I gave up a good 'farming' job in advertising to go travelling and a good job in mainstream teaching to be an educational presenter of the most original sort.

So, when I find myself awake in bed in the early hours beating myself with the worry stick emblazoned with the words 'I should have.....' (stayed in advertising, teaching, got a Phd or whatever) I will remind myself of how I got to be where I am, just what a great adventurer I am, have been and will continue to be.....