I love Birmingham

And so I have mainly written this week’s blog sitting in Starbucks in Birmingham’s Bullring at 8am on a Saturday. The sun is up and it’s going to be a hot day (though it will rain later). I really like Birmingham, it’s a great place for a weekend break away from London. It’s a big city with a great mixture of modern and Victorian architecture. It feels compact, vibrant, and mixed. A great place to chill out and watch the world go past especially the sexy workmen. As you go north from London in the UK you realise how industrial parts of the country are and how people still work in intensive industries making things. The rest of the UK isn’t all southern softies. This weekend away is based on me and Dave having some quality time away together. He’s had a really busy week including a big reception launch and a work trip away from London. We both had an excellent trip to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery which has some fascinating galleries (I particularly liked the more contemporary art) and a fabulous refurbished Edwardian Tearooms that I could have stayed in all day. And whilst I was up in the West Midlands, I combined it with a visit to Stoke to look at a serious project proposal. Again another city on the up – young, vibrant, earthy and not stuck in London set-up of being self obsessed, arrogant and expensive (though as my home city I do still love it). I also had the pleasure of meeting another big QPR fan who lives in Stoke. QPR vs Stoke, now what a match that will be in the coming football season.

One of the biggest things this week has been the Pootlepress WordPress training day I did on Monday which was very good. We had a bright group and a knowledgeable trainer, Jamie. At the end of the day I definitely knew more about working with WordPress and made some immediate changes to my website including creating a front page as well as putting up new pages, videos and useful links. And while I was doing my training, the Tour de France was taking place in London outside.

I’ve come across two examples of good team working this week. First, we had a respectful and pleasant team day on Tuesday at Body and Soul (a great charity working with children and families affected by HIV/Aids) followed by farewell drinks for my lovely colleague Rachel and it’s a pleasure to know that she is still going to have strong links to us. Then in Stoke on Friday I met the team of makers and doers who had been brought together by their enthusiasm and drive for the particular goal of setting up a new project. During the week my work has also given me the pleasure of talking to people who have got enthusiasm and big ambitions for tackling addiction through abstinence based recovery but it is a shame that not everyone can have the money they want.

There have been a couple of big social events this week. Last Sunday, Dave and I went to Elizabeth Emanuel’s birthday BBQ. A pleasant chill in the garden in good weather but so much food. A range of interesting guests including the retired athlete Jade Johnson, Elizabeth’s publicity man whose mother had recently had a major heart operation, and a Daily Mail journalist. There was also Elizabeth’s family and an interesting conversation in particular with her daughter Eloise on her legal career. Then on Wednesday evening I attended a House of Lords reception for HealthTalk.org (formerly HealthTalkOnline.org). It was a lot better than other ones I have been to in the Houses of Parliament in terms of the actual room and security. HealthTalk is a a good digital organisation empowering and informing people around their health problems. Plus it is run by a nice group of people including comms person Jo Kidd and the new CEO Luis.

Exercise wise, it’s not been one of my best weeks as I only got to the gym on Sunday and Thursday. I worked hard at the latter but I have missed my regular weekend exercise burst – one of the drawbacks of having little breaks away. And my time away has also left me feeling I have been eating a bit too much which combined without sufficient exercise could be bad news when I next weigh myself.

In terms of books it has also been a good week but not a classic one. I completed my review of ‘In the Plex’ which can be seen on the ‘Book Reviews’ page. I also read Roy Jacobsen’s novel (almost a novella) translated from Norwegian ‘The Burnt-Out Town of Miracles’ (2005). A perfectly decent book about the trauma of war and the extremes people go to in order to survive. Set in the freezing snow of Second World War Finland, it could just as easily be set in the contemporary burning desert of Syria or Iraq. I am also reading a Mark Forster book on time management which seems to be saying do the stuff that helps us in what we are really committed to, and understand the divide between rational and planned work being overtaken by irrational immediate demands when we let that happen. Not my main fund reading – that was provided by Terry Pratchett’s ‘Carpe Jugulum’. I love the whole Discworld series especially the witches, Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Og. This book was about vampires (or vampyres) and I may have something in common with them in that apparently they are very focused on order and can be confused by stealing one of their socks or throwing poppyseeds at them that they then need to pick up and count; whilst reading this book, I realised I was misreading the series having not read the immediate previous book which annoyed my orderliness. I am currently reading the very current and popular thriller ‘I am Pilgrim’ by Terry Hayes picked up in Birmingham for 50p. I don’t normally do thrillers but it’s had great reviews and is certainly well written – more details in my next blog.

Not much else to reflect on apart from two small things. First, I had a great haircut with the traditional barber I used to go to. He is very popular and when I saw him standing outside his shop having a fag, I grabbed my chance. His care and attention to my little bit of hair reminded me why I liked him so much. And second, this whole week has reinforced my self-realisation and acceptance that I am not a night person. Even whilst being away from home I have still been knackered by the evening so going early to bed and then inevitably early to rise. My plan for a Thursday ‘crazy’ night actually meant I was asleep by 11 and up by 7 the following morning – a pattern repeated for the whole weekend.

Website of the week:The Queen’s Young Leaders

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