Thanksgiving Service for The Queen

Sunday 5 – Saturday 11 June 2016

Suited and Booted for The Queen’s Thanksgiving Service at St Paul’s

St Paul's CathedralThe big event of last week was attending the Thanksgiving service for The Queen’s 90 years at St Paul’s Cathedral on Friday (and the day also happened to be The Duke of Edinburgh’s 95th birthday). The principal invitee was my partner and I went along as his other half. Overall a fantastic bit of ‘old’ Great Britain to personally be a part of but it did feel quite removed from everyday modern life.

The service itself started at 11 but we all needed to be in our seats by 10 and then the dignitaries could enter. It was dull just sitting there from 9 onwards though this was broken by chatting with the fellow members of the congregation, playing a game of ‘spot the famous people’, and simply taking in the impressive church interior. Indeed, we were sat right under the Dome. We saw all the royals as the whole family was in attendance. And there were many politicians including Nicola Sturgeon who looked really great, George Osborne the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sadiq Khan, Jeremy Corbyn, and David Cameron who read the New Testament reading.

Queen Nice atmosphere as the majority of the congregation were people who had direct links to The Queen such as being members of her personal staff. Though very hot and crowded with a limited view of lots of things such as young musician of the year very intensely playing the piano. Interestingly the hymn singing was also a bit muted, I don’t think people are used to singing collectively any more nor do they recognise hymns’ words or tune. Most disappointing was the sound system when people spoke such as Sir David Attenborough and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sermon. St Paul’s acoustics are great for organ and choral music but poor when people are simply speaking – it’s incredibly echoey. A fantastic personal experience though, after having watched it all again on TV, I realise it can perhaps better be appreciated as spectacle on TV. I thought the TV coverage was excellent.

Then afterwards we all walked through the busy City of London streets to the Guildhall. The post-service reception (for over a 1,000 people) took place in different rooms with various members of the royal family hosting them; The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh had gone back to Buckingham Palace to host a lunch for the Governor Generals. We were in the Great Hall. Nice drinks, food and chats. One of the most amazing things for me was discovering that in the basement of the Guildhall is the original Roman Amphitheatre that served London. You can see it and it is very inspirational.

My spiritual thoughts from the day

PovertyMy personal faith has dipped a bit recently particularly driven by the hypocrisy of many Christians. Indeed I am often reminded of the old saying ‘The devil quotes scripture’. And on a spiritual level I found parts of the St Paul’s service overwhelming and dominating; spectacular, big and loud but that not what Christianity is about to me. Indeed the service worked in reinforcing to me what my faith is about. It’s not just a size and numbers game nor is it dressing up in costumes, throwing incense, and nice singing. Jesus didn’t die on a cross for good choirs. The simple message of Christianity is about looking after people, caring for the underdog, and sharing wealth. Too many rich Christians luxuriate in being part of the ‘establishment’ at both local and national level. My favourite part of the New Testament is when Jesus says it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven. I am fascinated by the way so many Christians ignore that whilst they concentrate on their earthly wellbeing.

Health and Efficiency

Good jog-run

Previous Sunday I did an excellent jog-run. It felt good, my joints did not ache too much, my time was good and I increased the distance by 5%. Also some long purposeful walks during the week including Brighton to Hove on Monday and Victoria to Great Portland Street on Wednesday.

Gym and weight

GymGym only twice last week, on Thursday and Saturday morning but good both times – I love getting sweaty, feeling my muscles work, and just the simple smell of a good gym (ah, testosterone). Annoying that I couldn’t walk to the gym at the weekend just gone because St James Park was effectively closed due to Trooping the Colour and then the street party in the Mall for The Queen’s birthday.

Weight down a pound to 13-12 but I wouldn’t hold my breath about this being a long-term downward trend. Still trying to eat more fruit and veg.

Brighton

Chilled sunny Sunday afternoon and evening

Brighton BeachPrevious Sunday and after my run, I went off to Brighton to stay over before seeing the two old chaps the next day who I keep an eye on. It was a beautiful day and I was worried my early afternoon train would be very busy but it was not too bad. I quite like train journeys on my own because of the opportunity they give me to catch up on reading or thinking whilst I look out of the window. Sunday afternoon I had a lovely time of pottering around a very busy Brighton having coffee and reading, looking around bookshops, and admiring sexy bodies with lots of people in shorts. Sunday night treated myself to a curry and a drink in the hotel bar. One of those nice warm summer weekend evenings.

Bob

Another lovely day on Monday so after breakfast to see Bob who has had a stroke. He was up and dressed at his nursing home and I pushed him in his wheelchair to the local cafe. We sat outdoors watching the world go by though the cafe itself was very busy. All went well though only disaster was Bob trying to drink his coffee from a normal cup and it going all down his front. We also bought his magazine History Today as the person who used to bring it to him has died. One of the problems of being an elderly person is that most of your friends are old and so can’t help you as much as they would want to, often need help themselves, and are prone to dying.

Brian

Then on to see my the other old chap I keep a look out for. Brian was fine (and his beloved dog) – still totally dependent on his stroller to get about but in a far better position than Bob. Unfortunate news that the very good sheltered housing unit manager has left; she really did look after the residents and didn’t put up with some of their stupidity and pettiness. They are awaiting a replacement though the current temp one is OK. The problem person in Brian’s life (the one he can’t say ‘no’ to) has been in contact and is coming down for Pride – ho hum, I’m sure Mr Problem will get pissed as usual and then who knows what.

Digital

Toynbee Hall

Toynbee HallOff on Tuesday to visit this great community and anti-poverty centre on the edge of the City of London and primarily serving the poor people of Tower Hamlets. I am overseeing their grant to digitise the service to train people in dealing with debt. Basically they are creating an e-learning platform. Obviously they have the experience of giving advice but the technical aspects of building and servicing the platform have gone out to tender. All looks good though so that was reassuring. Clearly an e-service will enable far more people across the UK to be trained and supported.

Catching up with Dan from CAST

After Toynbee, it was onto Chancery Lane to catch up with the brilliant Dan Sutch in-between his conversations with NESTA and BIG Lottery Fund. Dan works at CAST (Centre for the Acceleration of Social Technology), a great new venture to promote Tech for Good / Social Tech. An opportunity to alert Dan to upcoming events where his input would be useful such as work to connect the strands between the themes of Sport For Change and Tech For Good. Plus we also discussed some future opportunities to showcase the work of CAST (particularly the Digital Fellowships and Fuse Accelerator they run which we are funding) and how we collectively can fund and promote the whole Tech for Good concept in the future so getting charities and not-for-profits better at using digital.

Tech4Good Awards

tech4good awardsWednesday was a very exciting day with the whole day being concerned with the Tech4Good Awards. These are one of the main recognisers of tech innovation in the not-for-profit / third sector. It was on this day that the list of finalists in each category for this year were announced; they are all listed here.

The morning was spent networking with the finalists before lunch at the top of the BT Tower and it was a bit disconcerting when it started to revolve. Then in the afternoon I was on the judging panel with my wonderful job-share colleague Nissa to decide the winners. My lips are sealed as to who has won until it is announced at the ceremony on the 6th July. Needless to say the panel discussions were heated and fiercely debated with some common themes coming up such as whether it is better to acknowledge the audacity of an idea and its potential or simply to concentrate on successful roll-out and reach. But a great choice of winners and all the projects are a bit wow. There is also the People’s Award where a winner is selected from all the finalists based on a popular vote. Everyone can vote for any of the finalists to win this special award so please go ahead and vote here plus spread the word.

Other digital and work stuff

  • Working with my job share colleague Nissa to plan out our new UK Tech for Good programme. Committee paper written, fingers crossed they support it. As part of developing the new programme we checked in with our external digital advisor to agree what lessons we should take from the pilot programme. Lots of positives but some new suggested alterations based largely on the digital principles of agile and open.
  • Linked up with BIG to talk re digital projects needing funding. It would be great to work with BIG around funding more Tech for Good in the future.
  • Exploring a new way to link up a digital company with a charity that could use its support and assistance (not cash). Could be a useful model to do similar things on a bigger scale in the future.
  • Finally (and non-digitally) had my briefing as a Queen’s Young Leaders volunteer. These young people are travelling to London from across the world next week for their residential. I am leading a group of volunteers to meet them at the airport and get them into London. Some of them have done amazing stuff in their home countries and you can read about them here.

It is interesting to reflect that I only work 3 days per week and I realise that I can get so much more done and am so much more productive by working remotely. We need to encourage this more as a way of working and break away from our old model of spending hours travelling each day to then use time being stuck in an office / call centre.

Sad passing of a colleague’s father

Sad news at work that a close and respected colleague has lost her dad. He had been given notice that his death was imminent 18 months ago. He survived seven (or is it eight?) heart attacks and had a good quality of life including driving until recently. He leaves a wife with dementia (he had been her main carer) who thinks he’s gone out to the shops. If you are into this sort of thing then please pray for them.

Books and Reading

LovecraftMy main reading has been a collection of short stories by H.P.Lovecraft (why do I always want to say Lovelace?) The Horror in the Museum. Written in the early twentieth century, these are wonderfully old-school and gothic horror stories though actually very modern in that the ideas feature in many more recent stories written by other people. Indeed much of his writing is really horror-sci-fi where alternative worlds inter-act with our own one. Though there is also lots of mumbo-jumbo about old gods, forgotten religions, and lost worlds such as Atlantis and Lemuria. Lovecraft himself was an amazingly prodigious writer though with a very sad life as he never found the recognition he craved (and deserved) plus died quite young and destitute. The book itself has taken a long time to read as it is very dense with tiny words crammed onto the pages so playing havoc with my eyes if I am not wearing my reading glasses.

Audio-books

Couple of Dr Who stories listened to. Decided to go back to relisten to The Sirens of Time the very first Dr Who audio-book from Big Finish not based on a previously televised story. It brings the fifth, sixth and seventh Doctors together and is OK but now I can appreciate I have heard better. And a case in point was The Creed of the Kromon, an adventure featuring the first appearance of companion C’rizz who never appeared on TV. A good adventure story though slightly horrific in the way an insect race use other species to incubate and grow their young.

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