Sun 22 – Sat 28 March
Two main things have dominated last week – work and Flare. The former has been about getting a new pilot digital innovation / transformation funding programme up and running in a very short space of time. The latter to do with Flare – the London LGBT Film Festival at the British Film Institute (BFI) on London’s South Bank. Also a trip to Brighton to do my volunteering keeping an eye on a couple of old friends.
Why has work been so busy and time consuming?
The new ‘Tech for Good’ fund (current working title) is going to be about a short but intensive funding and support package to help not for profit organisations achieve digital innovation and transformation based on work they have already started. I have been wonderfully assisted by my brilliant colleague Nissa although she is off to Peru for a month of environmental volunteering. The main things we have been working on is producing and getting appropriate sign offs on an application form that gives us the information we need to make a decision on funding as well as meeting standard internal needs for compliance / due diligence, the blurb for the website page which will be the portal to obtain information and make an application through, and finally the guidance notes on doing an application. Part of the issue is that we need to get projects applying who have the right infrastructure in place rather than people just applying effectively on a wing and a prayer.
For last week I worked right through Tuesday and swapped my half days working so that I did mornings instead thus freeing me up to go to Flare in the afternoons. Negative side effect is that there was no time during the week to go to the gym and I really missed it. Getting the new grants programme ready has meant lots of iteration (changes) around the main documents and conference calls between the ‘project team’ – thank God for PowWowNow. All very intense but productive. And indeed even on my half days (Wed, Thur, Fri) I ended up doing about six hours by being in the office at 8 and working right through till 2. There were also check-ins on my abstinence based recovery projects and Wavemaker, the fab lab / makerspace we are planning for Stoke.
Some other interesting work related bits for last week. My lovely colleague Meliz went off to do a two month teaching English course in Istanbul. Lots of jokes about her really going off to fight with the Kurds against Islamic State and getting married. And I was not in work on Wed afternoon but there was a Red Nose Day quiz and a team consisting of my colleagues won it. Finally there was a very interesting report last week that really made me prick up my ears saying that office staff spend too much time sitting on their fat arses all day and the detrimental effect it is having on our health.
The London LGBT Film Festival happens at the BFI every year over a long week. I love seeing the films – always a mixture of crap and brilliance. And the atmosphere is good though quite pretentious as with many arts festivals. I wrote in the previous blog about the good collection of shorts I saw on the previous Friday. The week just gone I saw three films and another collection of shorts:
- ‘Tiger Orange’ was a pleasant U.S. film set in rural America about the relationship between two brothers. One has stayed in the home town and is fairly closeted whilst the other is a wild child with a chaotic L.A. lifestyle. The relationship between any two siblings is always complex and coincidentally this film followed on from the Martin Wilson book about brothers I read the previous week. It is fascinating how two siblings have to deal with their different roles by being older and younger as well as being genetically connected but often being very different at the same time.
- ‘The New Girlfriend’ was a French film by Francois Ozon. A wonderfully colourful film, almost Almodovar-esque. A woman dies and her best friend promises to look after her daughter and husband only to find that the husband likes to wear women’s clothes. A complex relationship develops. The chap next to me tried to make a conversation by saying he thought the film was too long. That did not strike me though it is fairly stylised in many parts.
- Another collection of shorts: ‘Dark Rivers of the Heart’ with films containing a dark side. Only five films but all pretty good with the British one being the weakest for me yet again. The remaining films were from Canada, Australia and Germany with the fourth basically being a music video; Carpe Jugular by The Hidden Cameras. This was actually very creative (about how relationships can heal people) though also quite violent whilst the Canadian film was about people desperately looking for love and the German one about bullying. The Australian was the best one about two boys in a mental health hospital befriending each other though in many ways it is a horror movie.
- Finally on Saturday morning, Dave and I went to see ‘Studio 54, The Director’s Cut’. We had seen ‘Studio 54’ on DVD and it was dreadfully anodyne about the infamous New York club in the late seventies. This re-cut version with previously excluded out-takes was far more dark and decadent; great fun and well worth watching.
The previous Sunday, I had breakfast with Dave before he had to go off for work to Leicester for Richard III ‘s funeral service (he reported the train was packed with an interesting mixture of people – I bet). So it was little old me on my own. I did the gym then dealt with work stuff, meds for the week, and putting laundry away before catching the train to Brighton. Engineering works (very normal at weekends in winter) so the train went via Horsham and Littlehampton. This meant the journey took about two hours but this was actually quite nice because I had a seat and it emptied out after Gatwick; I spent my time reading and doing social media. Hotel check-in then off to a very nice cheap and cheerful Thai on Preston Street that seems to mainly be frequented by Chinese students then a drink in the hotel bar and an early-ish night.
My reason to be in Brighton was as normal, to keep an eye on the two old chaps I know – Bob & Brian. A light breakfast and then to see Bob in his nursing home. The weather was cool but dry so I could take him out in his wheelchair to the local coffee shop, to sit outside and chat whilst we watched the world go by. He is actually OK but insisted we go shopping buying things he didn’t need like more tissues – he has a drawer full of boxes of tissues. Then on for a catch up lunch with Brian. He has had some more falls basically linked to his beloved but boisterous dog. And he is having arguments at his sheltered housing about where the dog can and can’t piss. Cantankerous is definitely a word that describes him and I think he is pleased with that.
Train back to spend Monday evening with mum who is basically OK. I was with her again on Thursday night and with Dave on Wed night when we went for a nice catch-up meal at Prezzo. The only other big social event was meeting up with two old friends on Tues night. My mate Dom spends lots of his time looking after his mum as well and Kev is in-between jobs abroad. All good though the amount we spent on glasses of wine could have probably bought us about six bottles in a supermarket. I went home and sorted out catching up with another mate who is also keeping an eye on another older friend with dementia.
Inevitably, last week was a bit of a comedown after the ‘digitalness’ of the previous one. The key digital event last week was a meeting of the Funders’ Tech Innovation Group I convene. Our speaker was Ben Rowland and Jeba Jahan speaking about Digital Apprenticeships. These are a great way for young people to get trained in digital skills and for organisations holding them to learn about digital as the young people bring the modern approach of their generation to digital. Fascinating that Jeba had all her speech notes on her phone and informed me that she never watches TV instead just downloading things she wants to see when she wants. Unfortunately we were only a small group but still enthusiastic. It strikes me that I can’t think of any charities, social enterprises or funders that are using digital apprenticeships – very sad. Here is the URL if you want more detail on Ben’s outfit Arch Apprenticeships http://www.archapprentices.co.uk/
Fitness and health
As I have indicated before, a poor week in fitness terms linked very much to the dominance of work and Flare. Last Sunday I got to the gym for an all over workout instead of doing a jog because of my sore calves and achilles, I decided to give my legs a two week rest. So on Saturday morning just gone, I did my regular jog before going off to the cinema. Perfectly decent result: 28 mins, 4.74 km, 5.55 pace, 347 calories burnt. Pretty comparable to the previous result. Achilles and calves not too sore though they did hurt the next day. Bad news on the weight front, back to 13-7. Health wise everything else OK apart from an annoying spot on my forehead. At what point to you finally get too old for spots?
Books, reading, and Doctor Who
One of the high points of my trip to Brighton was getting to my favourite charity shop and looking for secondhand classic gay literature. Some novels but also a couple of eighties glossy books containing arty pictures of naked men from the time when we had ‘special’ videos and mags but not the easily accessible pictures available on internet as today so porn was often portrayed as art to ensure people more easily could get hold of it.
I finished the Martin Wilson book, a perfectly decent bit of contemporary American gay fiction – not always the case with so much written just for titillation. I then turned to the escapist ‘Doctor Who – Festival of Death’ by Jonathan Morris, a well written bit of sci-fi from 2000 with clear influences of Douglas Adams’ ‘Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’ and with lots of crossed time paths. Great to have the stimulation of different types of literature. The Doctor Who theme also continued via my listening to the William Hartnell adventure ‘The Reign of Terror’ on my ipod. Wonderfully innocent and reminiscent of sixties BBC TV plus hammy acting and William himself every so often fuffing his lines.