A funny old week

I am calling this blog ‘A funny old week’ to reflect that it has not been an average week due to both things I had planned and a big unknown that came out of the blue (as it is said, we can prepare for everything except for what which we did not expect). My big bolt came from a relatively routine hospital appointment on Tuesday which revealed (after the as expected horribly invasive examination though done by a very sympathetic doctor) a slightly enlarged prostate. Probably nothing serious and something to keep an eye on but it may well explain some of the ‘waterworks’ problems I am having – that I had just put down to ‘getting old’. I got out of the appointment and felt hit by a potential future of prostate problems and incontinence.   Hopefully that it is all just the stuff of nightmares but it does feel like something else on top of the other medical issues I deal with (HIV, blood clots, depression, high cholesterol). This has been heightened at the moment by one of my best friends being very ill with cancer and finding out this week that a long-term friend’s mum had just died in a hospice. So overall I had a bit of a wobble – out of the consulting room, I felt tearful and sick. I was supposed to go to work afterwards but the appointment took longer than expected (including bloods being taken and collecting meds) so that with the sense of being overwhelmed I needed a safe space and so I worked from home for the rest of the day.

The rest of the day after the hospital was supposed to have been my only physical ‘in the office’ time this week. But with my wobble and scooting to a safe zone, I ended up having not been into the office at all last week but I still managed to do my full 3.5 day week I am paid for (as I only work part-time). Tuesday actually turned out to be very productive as I threw myself into things after the morning wobble. I dealt with urgent e-mails and other deadline matters as well as having three important phone conversations. This showed to me the value of remote working in getting stuff done. I really do not understand why more organisations are not totally based on remote working. People can work where they want without losing time from travel and there are enormous cost savings on not having offices to upkeep. I am not stupid, I know people can become isolated but that can be easily overcome with a once per week team meeting. There really is mileage here for a role-model organisation to exist based totally on remote working without the call centre type offices we all seem to currently inhabit.

In terms of other work stuff this week, I had a very good meeting with Dan Sutch of Nominet Trust. The whole team at NT are great but and all very busy and so getting a chance to meet with them is a real pleasure; I love discussing all things digital and they share that enthusiasm. We specifically discussed the digital innovation centre for young people we are working on jointly and he gave me advice on a data seminar I am arranging. We also managed to fit in a flying visit to the digital innovation space underneath Somerset House. I have made Nominet Trust one of my websites of week – please have a a look particularly if you are searching for learning around or funding for using technology for social good. On Friday I met up with  a fellow enthusiast at a big UK and international charity to talk about taking technology usage from their international work and using it to engage with young people in UK. Then I visited the fourth organisation I will be working with for the next two years to develop a local community of people using abstinence based recovery. The organisation is Spitalfields Crypt Trust and they have been doing good stuff in East London for many years helping those with addiction issues and homelessness. In creating their community they will be running more social events and extending the operational hours of their lovely social enterprise coffee-book shop ‘Paper and Cup‘. I have made SCT my other website of week, please have a look and visit Paper and Cup if you get a chance. Again I met people in recovery and again I was gobsmacked by what they have achieved; being able to tackle their addictions and, more importantly, maintain abstinence by introducing alternative but better things into their lives. Indeed they have done better than me as I still drink alcohol and get pretty stressed out by the idea of trying to live without it.

One of the other key points from last week was on Thursday in York when I attended a symposium on the self management of long-term conditions for men. Very interesting and disturbing stats about the unevenness of gender health: 1 in 8 women die before the age of 65 but it is 1 in 5 for men. And on long-term conditions, 70% of all health and care spending in England goes on supporting people with long-term conditions. During the symposium, it became clear that self management is still not heavily promoted or taken on board by either patients or clinicians as a serious healthcare option. In terms of targeting self management to men, the issues are that men do not engage with healthcare at an early stage and are reluctant to change their lifestyles whilst self management is not promoted to them in the correct way. Ultimately it was felt that for self management to be attractive to men, it needs:
– purpose / action-orientation
– to be within a trusted environment
– peer involvement
– to provide expertise and offer options for problem-solving
My own use of self management to manage my health tells me that there is truth in this.

With the hospital wobble it was inevitable that health and fitness issues would be a key part of last week. One of outcomes from the hospital appointment was a very strong recommendation that I should lose weight as I am over-weight on both the height/weight ratio and BMI. So last week there was the gym on Sunday and Wednesday. And I saw my trainer Sara on Monday for a new routine but still with lot of kettlebells and a general concentration on strengthening my legs. My regular jog-run on Saturday morning was a sobering experince. I was carrying a really sensitive left achilles after last week’s disappointing result – distance good but time slow. I basically replicated the distance and time though I might have been slightly faster. But my recovering left achilles has returned to being tender again. I know it will improve as time passes and it now has a two week break as I will not be doing any jogging-running whilst I am in Berlin next weekend. And on health issues, I visited the chiropodist on Monday who confirmed I had a verruca and treated it; my third this year and I thought only kids got them – must remember to wear my flip-flops more in the gym showers.

I managed to read two books this week just gone. The first was ‘Poison Heart’ by S.B.Hayes. I picked it up cheap and primarily wanted to read it because I liked the publisher ‘Quercus’ – an inventive one though I think it has gone under now. Unfortunately this was not a very good book. It came across largely as teenage fiction which is fine and gave me an appreciation of a young woman’s world view i.e. the importance of friends and first love. But the novel itself was a hodge podge of teenage issues, the supernatural, and ultimately a third rate thriller. Overall it was disappointing but I fulfilled my promise to myself to always read a book to the end. From personal experience, I did strongly empathise with how some people are manipulative for their own ends (such as destroying a relationship) simply because they want to; that is what gives them their kicks.  The other book was ‘Valentine Grey’ by Sandi Toksvig. Another cheap pick-up – ex-library for 30p. It is the improbable story of a tom-boy home from the Raj taking on her cousin’s call-up to fight in the Boer War. She manages to go through the whole war and internment without being discovered to be a woman. Meanwhile, her gay male cousin gets caught up in claustrophobic and contradictory Victorian values. Ultimately this is a book very much about looking at the inter-changeability of gender roles and it is well written keeping me engaged to the end then feeling sad when it was over. Overall, a decent read and recommended (unlike Poison Heart). Linked to my love of reading, I took a load of books I have finished with up to the Book Exchange at Notting Hill Gate. This is a crazy, ramshackle place and great fun to browse simply because you do not know what you will come across. I swapped my old books for some new ones. And of the ones they did not want, some went to a charity shop whilst the specifically gay ones went to the ever-wonderful Gays the Word bookshop in Marchmont Street – a pillar of the gay community. I like exchanging books – it is sustainability in action. My current reading is Gerald Walker’s ‘Cruising’ – a gay classic written in the 1970 that later became the brilliant Al Pacino film.

Bad news on language learning, I have managed only twice on Duolingo to practice Spanish though I have watched a DVD of the German film ‘Harvest’. It is ok though not a great film being a bit like something semi-educational made by a regional film-maker. It has not really helped my German though hopefully immersion in Berlin next week will be useful perhaps stimulating the latent German I hold in my memory from the time I had a German boyfriend and often visited Deutschland. Digital – not much progress though I have downloaded the new version of WordPress – 4.0 ‘Benny’. It is good with some simple but useful improvements.

And finally, how has my social life been? I had a pizza with Dave last Sunday evening,  a nice bit of relaxation before the new week started. And I had a catch up with my old friend James (different to my other friend called James who is dealing with cancer) on Wednesday. We went to the busy South Bank and spoke over dinner. We have known each other for about 20-25 years and have similar outlooks on things linked to our age, background, and life experiences. I realise more as I get older that I am blessed with a good network of friends and family. For my symposium in York on Thursday, I travelled up on Wednesday late afternoon. Travel was via the Grand Central network; very nice comfy seats and on time though it appeared to be old stock with a lack of air-conditioning. I paid for myself to stay over the night so this gave me Wednesday evening to explore York which is very picturesque with both history and buildings to match. I ate at a great Indian restaurant called Akbar’s then chilled with a drink in my cheap hotel bar whilst reading Valentine Grey and watching the dull England v Norway footie match. Before the symposium, I had a nice breakfast at an independent tea shop though I also saw the wonderful Betty’s Tea Rooms but unfortunately did not have enough time to visit. A good journey back on East Coast which always impresses me as the best train network overall. We were on time so I was able to have a cheap meal out with Dave to celebrate my return. This meant I missed the monthly Velvet Book Club but the discussion was about a book I read ages ago, had largely forgotten about, and had no great drive to re-read. The travel bug had bitten me and so I spent the rest of Thursday evening booking future trips including a couple of days in Edinburgh, my October Lewes/Brighton visit (Sept is already booked), and a trip to York for Dave’s birthday so we can explore it as tourists. Dave has his mum down so Friday night was about preparing the flat for her and Saturday night saw me having a quiet one in with my own mum.

No Wonker of the Week because I cannot think of any one obvious although the world is full of tossers and sometimes it is nice not just to dwell on negatives. Normal service to resume next week, probably.

Webistes of the Week:
http://www.nominettrust.org.uk
http://www.sct.org.uk

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