25 60 348 – a week of numbers

Mon 30th April – 6th May 2018

hot hot hotHopefully my cryptic blog title has you intrigued. Basically last week was memorable for several reasons: super sunny weather (mid-20s at the weekend), my mate Dom’s 60th birthday, and the number of votes I got in the local elections: 348.


Sun just gone was my old mate Dom’s 60th birthday. He doesn’t look that age (and what would it matter if he did?). It was also my birthday but mine was not so auspicious an age.

Homer does dohI was part of a group of his friends who met on Sun evening and went to Kettners in Soho for a la-di-da meal. All good stuff though I had misunderstood Dom’s message thinking it was starting at 8pm rather than 6pm – confusion over the ‘meal for 8’ meaning 8 people – doh! Luckily me and Dave managed to get there for 6.30.

birthday cake to celebrate my half centuryI’ve known Dom for about 35 years and he is a thoroughly decent bloke. Great also to see another couple of old friends (James & Alastair) who I have also known for nearly the same amount of time. Many thanks to everyone who sent me messages for my birthday. 🙂

Election News

No win last Thurs for me in the local elections but a perfectly decent result considering I didn’t do any active campaigning – 348 votes. My aim was quite simple, to provide an alternative vote to Labour and the Conservatives particularly as both are now pro-Brexit. As a Lib-Dem, I am totally opposed to Brexit as well as racism, anti-semitism, intolerance, etc. I think there is a query as to whether I get more actively involved in politics in the future, but I don’t know the answer to that at the moment.

Weather and Scunthorpe

spreading diseaseLast week ended with burning hot sunshine going right into the blessed Bank Holiday Monday. But the previous Monday, I was still in Scunthorpe for my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday celebrations.

Monday was actually her birthday though the main party happened on Sunday. Start of last week, the weather was cold and windy though I think in London it was pissing down. And I had a cold that had started the day before. Indeed, my sleep Sun night into Mon morning was marked by some very weird dreams.

Dave and I took my mum out to meet Gloria at the local cafe that she always goes to for breakfast. Where she lives is quite sleepy i.e. all the shops shut at 5pm. But there is a wonderful variety of cheap / charity shops and a real sense of community. If she didn’t turn up for breakfast one morning then the staff would phone her up to check all was OK.

The bad weather meant at trip to Cleethorpes or Skegness for the day was out. We thought about visiting the stately home Chatsworth but with entry costing £21 each(!) and no pensioner discount that was also out. There was a plan to drive to the big shopping centre near York but that would take an hour and a half each way. So we settled on a trip to Doncaster pottering around the shops and then Dave drove us to the big garden centre at Brigg. All very pleasant. Back to the hotel around 5pm to chill before going out in the evening for fish & chips. This is a particular favourite of the mums. Then back to Gloria’s to finish off her birthday cake.

Tues morning and Dave took the hire car back whilst me and my mum went to meet Gloria for breakfast at her cafe again. Then onto Scunthorpe train station for the chug-chug train to Doncaster followed by a fast train to London. Mum got chatting to a guy on the train – I wondered if I was going to get a new dad!? She had also been chatted up the day before at the coffee shop in Doncaster. Uber home with a very chatty but nice driver. Personally I’m really happy when taxi / uber drivers don’t want to chat. Then a quiet evening sorting stuff out and getting ready for work the next day.

Innovation and Creativity

In the office Wed and Fri last week. Wed was incredibly busy, I was in the office for 8am and left at 7pm with no real lunch break. Fri was less frenetic but still a full day. Lots of internal stuff – budgets, legal, supervisions, leadership team meetings, meetings with staff in other partnerships.

There is always a danger that jobs become too internally facing and about feeding the machine. You see it in all sectors – not-for-profit, public, private. It’s often a signal of wrong direction and long-term decline. However, there always has to be a strong element of internal communication and co-operation or that also becomes an element and sign of an organisation’s decline. Good meeting on Fri afternoon with my former colleague Kate Adams, now at NESTA, to discuss possible co-operation on a challenge prize.

Health and Efficiency


Old magazine coverOnly got to the gym twice last week: Thurs and Sat. Both work-outs were really good ones because I basically had the gym to myself. So I spent a long, leisurely hour and a half on Thurs and about an hour on Sat working with a range of machines and free weights to work all the main body parts. Sat I didn’t push my legs too much because I knew I was doing my jog-run the next day. I love going to the gym so much, I really could go everyday if I had the time.


I was determined to do this last Sun not least because of the good weather. Out at 8am and the sun was still quite strong even then and I ended up with a red face for the rest of the day. Overall, good in that I did a 10K however the time was very iffy. Having said that it was my first full 10K before taking time out because of the cold weather.

1 hour 7.32 mins and a slow pace of 6.45 km per minute; 5k = 33.15 mins. So lots of work to do to get things back to a good place and I still have a target of 10K in 1 hour. But some progress (bit like the Lib Dem election results). 🙂 Compare and contrast jog run results here and watch the video report here.

General health

INR & blood-clotting levels

BloodINR on Fri morning. This was to make up for the one I forgot last Fri morning. It was just over the range it should be in i.e. I am prone to (internal) bleeding. So change in the warfarin dosage and back in a week and a half’s time. Ho hum.


Weight scalesI’ve stopped weighing myself for a while as I know my weight has gone a bit out of control. Not too long ago I was worried about being just over 13 stone. Now I am nearly 14 & a half stone.

But I am making a real attempt to not go mad with food. That went to pieces in Scunthorpe with fish & chips and various other stodge. But the rest of the week I tried to only eat when hungry and not eat huge portions. It is interesting on gym days how I can skip breakfast and leave eating till later in the day. Totally different to when I am at work and I’m starving.


Great response to a piece of typical everyday stigma that people with HIV have to learn to deal with. In this case, a high profile gay man is publicising the idea that every one with HIV has a death sentence.

Personal Development

Learning to love my free time

One of the best thing that happened last week was having some time to myself to do nothing. My previous week’s blog detailed how I ended up working 4 out of 5 weekdays (though also being in the office for a little bit of my one day-off) and also 2 evening meetings.

I am not good at only working my paid hours. Last week I was off all day on Thurs but had a meeting in the office to attend at 3pm in the afternoon. It was a meeting that we had been trying to arrange for ages and there was no other time to do it. But it got cancelled on the day; one of the other side’s participants was ill. A shame that a potentially useful meeting had to be re-scheduled. But great in that I did not have to go to the office on my day off.

I probably should have gone and helped out canvassing / knocking up for the local elections but I decided to have the day to myself. Gym in the morning followed by a day bouncing between coffee shops using their wi-fi to catch up with stuff on the pooter. Indeed, I lost track of time absorbed in the internet. I did also meet Dave in-between coffee houses and we had a drink of wine in Soho. Then in the evening it was Velvet Page book club.

Weekend chill

I decided to make time for myself at the weekend as well. Not quite as good as the whole of Thurs being mine to do nothing with. But on Sat and Sun I did manage to get afternoon naps. Wonderfully reviving though perhaps a bit dangerous that they are not achievable on ‘normal’ days. Also a potter around my favourite charity shops on Sat but then Dave knocked coca-cola into the bag of goodies I had bought. 🙁

The usual

So an update on my actual personal development last week focusing on my 3 normal angles. Some language learning on Duolingo but did miss 2 days so 5 out of 7 – not bad. I did do some coding practice on Code Academy but also tried out a good app (Grasshopper) that teaches how to do JavaScript. Finally, personal and work emails went a bit out of control. The coming week is about getting them back to workable numbers.

Books and Reading

I had the fortune to read two interesting books last week. Both very readable but the former a bit flimsy whereas the latter was a good, deep analysis of life and getting old – all wrapped up in a novel.

‘Insomiac City: New York, Oliver, and Me’ by Bill Hayes

The true-life story of a man whose lover has died so he moves to New York, falls in love with the city and famous neurologist Oliver Sacks, then starts a relationship with Oliver being with him up to his death from cancer. It’s very much in a diary format alongside photos of New York and its people.

insomniacThis is a very easy book to like – totally readable with nice photos and pleasant reflections. Indeed, it reminded me a lot of the brilliant Derek Jarman diaries. However, Hayes’ stuff lacks the dark and light of Jarman’s reflections.

Perhaps slightly unfair in that the latter was writing about the period of AIDS. But Hayes’ writing is unrelenting positivity. There’s no sense in this book of a tortured soul that can’t sleep. Situations and people are always pleasant, never scary or negative.

We discussed it at the Velvet Page Book Club on Thurs night. Indeed, I just finished reading it in time. Overall, we agreed an easy read but lacking in shade. There are also some interesting questions unanswered: nothing about his previous and dead partner, a query over how the author makes his money, and the question of how far Oliver Sacks’ wealth enabled the author’s lifestyle. And a big question about how far this wealthy and educated white man could really empathise with the lives of ordinary New Yorkers especially those not living and playing in Manhattan.

‘Merivel: A Man of His Time’ by Rose Tremain

portrait of King Charles II

She is one of my favourite contemporary authors and writes brilliantly on a range of subjects. I think this is one of her best. It’s the story of a man living during the reign of Charles II just before his death. In many ways it is a philosophical reflection on getting old and dealing with the feeling that life has passed one by with the accompanying deep thought on how to live the rest of  your life well to leave a mark.

Ah, the vanities of flesh thinking our insignificant existences should matter.

I really would recommend this book as a well-written and enjoyable novel. And it certainly doesn’t progress as you expect it to with various detours, dead-ends, and twists; a bit like life. Definitely a book to read and use to reflect on what you see as the purpose of being alive. Whether you can say you are really happy or whether you are caught up in places you don’t want to be.

The Week Ahead:

  • Hooray for bank holiday weekends, especially sunny ones! 🙂
  • It’s actually not too busy at work next week so that gives me the chance to catch up on stuff especially following up on some new contacts which is always fun – you never know where the journey may end
  • The Comic Relief Tech4Good for Africa Award closes on Tues at 6pm and we can start trying to shortlist the entries
  • Target is 4 gym sessions and a jog-run (boom!)
  • Going to fully use my spare time to chill out and look after myself
  • Also going to get back on top of emails as well as play with Duolingo and do some coding
  • Aim is to read a couple of books and perhaps get to the cinema or watch some films at home


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