Before Berlin

Sun 29 March – Thursday 3 April 2015

cities-677480__180So a ‘quick and dirty’ update on the period before Easter and going off for a long weekend in Berlin. Last Sunday, of course, I was not working and I went to the gym. Monday was a free day and I made sure that it was because I was working all day on Tuesday and Wednesday plus a half day on Thursday morning before my flight to Germany.

The challenge of pushing forward and reconciling different cultures
Actually an intense few days at work primarily because of getting everything finalised on the new Tech for Good grants programme due to be launched on 13 April. Many people, understandably, do not appreciate what is involved in working in a large organisation and getting all the relevant OKs when you are doing something new and customer facing that will be in the public arena. We have sorted the key paperwork (application form, guidance notes, web blurb) and now it is about sorting lay-out and copywriting, ensuring everything meets brand guidelines, and finally to the digital team to be put online. Fingers crossed we will launch on time – general goodwill from across the spectrum makes me hopeful.

black-320985_640It has also been fascinating (and frustrating if I am honest) in dealing with two cultures clashing. In this case the organisational culture of one side that uses a bespoke software system linked up with Microsoft Office. And the other culture is that of the external digital world (the people we want to do digital innovation and transformation) who basically mistrust things linked to MS much preferring to operate in a world of Macs, open source software, and sharing / storing in the Cloud. Our main way of getting applications for one-off pilot programmes like this is via completing an application in Word and then sending it to us in an e-mail. Techies may well be horrified and so we have been trying to reconcile these two different cultures – a great learning experience overall.

Next week hopefully it will all be about starting to market the new funding opportunity. I have drawn up a key list of agencies to work with and met with one last week, NESTA, who do good work in encouraging innovation in many different ways – well worth a look at www.nesta.org.uk

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One good thing at work was our colleague Peter’s 60th birthday on Wednesday, the day of the team meeting. I was chairing the meeting and we had a surprise cake and champagne lined up at the end. It was hilarious before the meeting when he informed me he had baked a cake for his birthday and would share it with everyone at the start of the meeting. We had to persuade him it was better left to the end and then we had to eat two massive chocolate cakes. And nice when several colleagues said they thought I had chaired the meeting well.

Fitness and health
walking-349991__180Achilles very tender after my Saturday jog, indeed the discomfort (pain?) kept waking me up during the night. Gym on Sunday morning for an all over workout but putting special emphasis on stretching my achilles and building up my calves which seemed to do the trick. Monday I had a session with my former work colleague and now my PT Sara; we concentrated on core and legs including using the kettlebells which I really enjoy. Then down to my gym in central London for a shower and sauna before continuing the exercise theme by walking home. Monday actually became a day of walking. I walked for about an hour and a half from Oxford Circus across Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens and along streets with a moderately heavy rucksack. Then later the same day I got some second-hand books and took the bus up to the Notting Hill Book Exchange to trade them in (sustainability in action) before walking back home. Unfortunately there was no time for the gym during the rest of the week because I was so tied up at work.

Mum and Dave
I had a really nice time with Dave on Sunday. We met up after I had finished at the gym and then had a lovely meal together at Pierre Victoire – a great value for money restaurant in Soho, highly recommended. Then back to Dave’s for a snooze together which made up for the hour lost by the clocks going forward on Saturday night. Sunday evening together watching Antiques Roadshow and Coronation Street. With Dave again on Wednesday night and we went for a pizza which I needed after my busy time at work before going back to his to pack my going-away bag which he would be bringing along the next day so I did not have to carry it into work. Monday and Tuesday I spent time with mum and she was fine though she also said she was going to miss me whilst I am in Berlin plus how envious she is as she would like to go away somewhere (though she would not dream of arranging something and going away on her own).

Stress and reading
Life feels quite challenging at the moment and so I have found myself having to create personal chill spaces particularly making sure I have a lunchtime and getting out of the office for at least half an hour and having an unwind coffee after work so I can mark the evening has arrived and relax. WildTP_Home-210As regular readers know, I love reading and that is one of my ways of coping. This week I have been reading ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed. I recently saw the film and it is about a young woman who has a crisis period (mother dying, getting divorced, etc) and so walks the PCT – Pacific Crest Trail. This helps her to find herself. I am always slightly suspicious of people who need to go back to nature to find themselves as I am a city boy. But Cheryl’s ability to take out time, put things in perspective, and get her life back on track are both inspirational and instructive. Mental health really is affected by physical environment.

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