A quieter week in London with three good books, Future Shock at Millbank, and classic Doctor Who. Oh and the heating engineer did not turn up again.

Sunday 9 – Sat 15 Nov

“The purpose of thinking about the future is not to predict it, but to raise people’s hopes.” Freeman Dyson

Overall, a quiet week. No great progress on fitness although I did manage to get to the gym on the previous Sunday morning to do a good weights work-out, 12 & half mins on the rowing machine, and 10 mins gentle jogging on the running machine. I have a new theory that small bursts on the running machine might be good for my achilles when it comes to doing my weekly jog-run on Saturdays. I did not have time available to get to the gym during the rest of the week but I did get back to my jog-run on Saturday after a break the Saturday before last due to the disruption caused by Remembrance Day and so I could give my achilles a good long rest. My time this Saturday was 37 minutes & 16 seconds which was a minute slower than my personal best but that was on top of stopping twice to walk as I felt really knacked. So good overall though my achilles was aching a bit later in the day however I have realised constant gentle exercise such as walking does make it better – inactivity is the problem.

Healthwise, I had to attend a hospital appointment related to ‘dsyfunctioning down below’. They think it could be a problem related to my low moods, anxiety, and depression as well as being linked to the daily cocktail of meds I take. But it could be related to my high BMI which reinforced my thoughts that I have got to lose weight. I also made a GP appointment to check out the regular on and off headache I get on the right side of my head above the eye as well as to renew all my non-HIV meds. Sadly I got turned down for a new HIV medication study because I am not yet over 50 and my cardio-vascular health is not bad enough to get me in because I am under-age. This is a shame because it would have meant connecting up with Scott again, the superb nurse I used to have monitoring my care at my hospital’s research unit.

Socially, the main people this week have been mum and Dave. I stayed with mum on Mon, Tues & Thurs nights. Monday morning I stayed in with her for the heating engineer from Robert Heath (who have the Housing Association contract) to do the annual safety certification on her gas appliances. The previous time they had failed to turn up at all and they did turn up this time although at 12.30 and after a chaser phone call; the visit could have been any time 8-1. A unhelpful engineer said he did not have a part needed to service the boiler (a washer!) and made clear his displeasure at having to service the gas fire in mum’s front room that frankly she loves so much she would die in a ditch for it. He was supposed to return on Thursday with the washer but failed completely to turn up. The company re-arranged his return for a specific two hour slot on Friday and he failed to turn up again (fourth time). Mum is obviously very uptight but as I said to her, don’t worry it really sits on the Housing Association’s shoulders to have a contract with a company that can actually do the work. With Dave, on Sunday we did lunch together then he went off for a trip around his favourite shops (Paperchase and Heals) whilst I went back to his flat to sort out the laundry, have a shave, and sort my meds for the week ahead (my normal Sunday routine). Wednesday night he insisted on watching the Channel 4 programme on Liberty (the shop) which I thought was absolute drivel. I did meet up with two friends during the day on Thursday, after the hospital. First, my mate Jamie who has soon got the play he wrote being performed for the first time ‘A Fright at the Opera’. Then my old friend Peter. He is a priest (before that a prison governor) and helped me through the very rough-patch in my life; we have kept in touch ever since. His humility and compassion is something I greatly admire.

On reading I spent most of the week with Christopher Fowler’s second book about the Bryant and May detective partnership, ‘The Water Room’. Good fun and I think we could all secretly aspire to be the cantankerous old sod that is detective Arthur Bryant. An adventure with an imaginative plot though this did become complex at times as so often happens with thrillers. I moved on to two books afterwards. The first is one I picked up in my Madrid hotel, ‘Death in the Dordogne’ by Louis Sanders. I was sure that I had seen a good review of it somewhere though I could have just mis-remembered this. But it was published by my favourite publisher Serpent’s Tail who always can be relied on to put out wacky and obscure stuff. Not the trashy book I expected but rather a good look at what it is like for people assimilating themselves into new communities as well as the danger of obsessive revenge. The second book was by a classic gay writer. Joseph Hansen wrote twelve thrillers based on the insurance investigator Dave Brandstetter. Really ahead of its time and wonderfully evocative of the age they were written in. I started with the first novel ‘Fadeout’ written in 1970; it just oozes Seventies.

Office days this week were Tuesday and Wednesday. On both days I made sure I was in by 8/8.15 for an early start on getting work done before people started to arrive at their desks. Big thing at the moment is signing off assessments on the latest load of grant applications so they are ready for Grants Committee and Trustees. Unfortunately one of my sign-offs has got corrupted leading to data being deleted – we are liaising with the IT people to try to correct things out. Ironically, I also liaised with a colleague around developing our new strategy on funding digital project proposals. I am getting good feedback on the digital evaluation report I spent ages proofreading so perhaps it was worth all the hassle. And we had a team meeting that everyone dreads but actually went very well.

I was working on Friday but out of the office at a conference. Organised by NESTA, who I would like to do more work with, it was called Future Shock and was looking at the issues that will dominate the future but that politicians are not talking about. There were some good speeches and a general overall message that the key problem at the moment is inequality in society with its knock-on social effects and that could get worse in terms of the increasing automation of low skill jobs and tensions between different age groups. I attended two specific workshops – one on health and the other on education. One of the key benefits of attending a conference is to take time out of the office and get inspiration. To do this, one has to go out of your comfort zone. Health is an area I am doing a lot of work in and so I did not really learn anything new. Indeed, too much time was taken discussing shiny new technology and power bases within the NHS. We know what makes good health (lose weight, eat 5 a day, take exercise, don’t smoke, drink less, and avoid loneliness) – we really need tech to help us to reinforce good behaviour and stop us misbehaving. The education workshop took me more out of my safe area and was relevant especially with work going on I am involved in to develop a digital exploration centre for young people. Millbank was the venue and it was wonderfully modern with free wi-fi and plug points so that I could also delve into work stuff and I actually got loads of work done whilst listening to speakers; more than I would have done if I had been in the office.

Despite the strategic digital stuff I am doing at work, very little progress on my own personal digital skills i.e. my ability to do things at the coalface. However, I did manage to do several sessions on DuoLingo concentrating on improving my Spanish – hooray, progress!

Two final things to mention. First, over three evenings I watched the classic Dr Who serial ‘Death to the Daleks’. Reminded me of my childhood when Jon Pertwee was the first Doctor I really got to know. Second, I have decided to do something radical. I am planning to alter my days in the office so instead of being there all day on Friday, I intend to be there on Thursday and Friday afternoon so that I can go to the gym on both mornings. That should enable me to have 3-4 gym sessions per week as well my jog-run and my session with Sara.

 

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