August – the so-called ‘quiet’ month

Mon 6th – Sun 12th Aug 2018

2018 Calendar including AugustThere’s a bit of modern mythology that August is a quiet month. That there is less going on and work is not so busy – everyone has packed up and gone on holiday.

Perhaps it’s true in places like France and Spain where people really do pack up and go away to the cooler areas. Perhaps it feels true as well for people involved in education. But in London for me it doesn’t feel like a quiet time at all.

sunny sky with bits of cloudYep I get the idea that the weather is good, things should be more chilled, and there are less people around in the office. And it’s great to have summer things like permission to leave the office at 4.30 on Fri.

But with Sept as the kick-off for loads of stuff, there is all the prep work that needs to be done during July and August. And during that time with many key people away, things actually become more stressful for those left behind. Oh well Billy, stop moaning and get on with life.

Dave’s bad back

Lower backAs you may sense life has been a bit stressed last week. Two main things. First of all, lots of stuff going on at work. Second, Dave has a bad back and needs lots of looking after; I had to raid my patience bank. And mustn’t laugh (or video) as he struggles to get out of bed making funny noises. šŸ™‚

Innovation and Creativity

Hack event to find our best international projects

progress being madeBig last week was the hack event I ran on Thurs afternoon to identify the 20 best international projects we fund that could be filmed. Though also with the objective of raising internal awareness generally of projects in funding.

People are curious

Nerve wracking if people would turn up and if the methodology would work. The former was definitely good. Several dropped-out on the day but we still had around 30 people from different teams. There is an appetite across the org to know about the great stuff we are funding.


Old fashioned view of video conferenceI’m not so sure the methodology worked – at least, not for me. We did get to 20 great projects so that was a success. But we did it through looking at dull paperwork and people found this hard work.

How to easily present amazing projects?

This exemplifies the problem we have. We fund literally 100s of amazing projects but how do you showcase them so they are easily accessible both internally within the organisation and outside to the world explaining how the money is spent? Really hard in a world often based more on images rather than words. Perhaps we need a massive database of images and videos that people can easily search through? Is that just a YouTube Channel?

Vegan cakes didn’t happen

I was going to get some lovely vegan cakes for the hack. I had scouted them out at Whole Foods but when I went on Thurs morning after the gym, they had none! Their supplier is away for the summer. So I did get some vegan biscuits and gluten-free muffins but the cakes were normal ones. I had suggested wine and beer to create a more inspiring atmosphere but my boss was against spending work money on alcohol. Not sure all organisations are so virtuous and honourable.

Other interesting stuff:

  • Good meeting with Sherif to explore his idea on producing low-cost podcasts on the development of tech with the negative and positive effects this will have on human rights.
  • Talking with my Red Shed (social investment and innovation) colleagues about some of the exciting projects they are bringing forward for funding approval.
  • Discussing with my job-share colleague Dilhani about her really interesting proposal to create a Film Fund to encourage film-makers in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Internal discussions around social tech / tech for good (my old stomping ground), promoting diversity, and ways to boost fundraising – what is it that persuades people to donate money?

I love my team

a big love heartFinally, I must just say how much I love working with my Influence Team. They are a group of nice, committed and enthusiastic individuals brimming with energy and ideas. They are the reason I go to work – it’s a pleasure working with them all. šŸ™‚


Health and Efficiency


JoggingSo happy because I did a really good one last week: 1 hour, 2 mins & 18 secs. Perhaps my dream of a jog-run under an hour is still realistic. Though I am realistic I will never get back to the 45 mins of my 20s. šŸ™

Why did it work so well? Temperature was good, not too hot. Plus I didn’t go off too fast. Indeed my crap km pace was 8-9 km which is really strange as usually I am gearing up to go fast to finish off. Tried to push my thighs and glutes more. The key is definitely to relax and enjoy the whole thing. Video report can be found here. And a comparison of all my times can be found here.


World's Strongest Man

The final week before my gym shuts for its redevelopment. It will re-open in 2 months’ time but a lot smaller and set in an underground room with no windows. šŸ™

Only two gym sessions last week: Tues and Thurs morning. Both times focused on weights as cardio is pretty easy to do outside the gym – long walks, etc. I had thought about going on Fri morning which I took off as TOIL for working doing the hack on Thurs afternoon. But I woke up and was knacked, must have been the tension about running the hack the day before.

I did pop along on Sun morning to see if I could do a sneaky session before everything closed. But they had cleared out all the machines at the end of Sat night and that really had been the last day. šŸ™


lose weight nowWeighed myself on Sun morn. 13 stone, 13 pounds. Significantly over the weight I should be at (12 stone?) but I have made some headway over the last few months. Perhaps the gym being closed gives me the opportunity to do something different August to October and lose weight?

Personal Development

Some progress on languages – they are fascinating. Russian is really hard with a totally different alphabet. And in coding I’m doing reminders around HTML and CSS. Bloody emails continue to overwhelm at home + work. That really is a problem that needs solving.


Not much to report on this front for last week. I continue to try to minimise my food intake. Indeed, there is part of me that would love to be vegan (see my adventures with vegan cakes above). But it is hard work and I do quite like some dairy products and eggs; a life without cheese… šŸ™

Also walking, my reuse plastic coffee cup, buying secondhand, borrowing from the library, and turning off electricity when not needed – all little things we can do to make a change.


Theatre: ‘The Titanic Plays’

My main cultural outlets are books, films and music. I’m still enjoying falling asleep with classical music playing though if I’m staying over with Dave then the miserable sod insists I turn it off. I’m not really into the performing arts that much with opera and ballet being my particular turn-offs simply because I don’t understand them.

Modern fringe theatreDave loves theatre and insisted we go to see ‘The Titanic Plays’ at the Bunker Theatre near the Menier Chocolate Factory in Southwark on Sat night. This was a new interpretation by an experimental company.

A nice pre-theatre drink at the nearby Flat Iron Square which was an interesting new find and a place well worth checking out. More details here. They play itself on the night was a bit of a disaster. šŸ™

sinking of the titanicMain problem was a technical fault that meant it started 45 mins late. Basically some of the cast were being fed their lines by blue tooth and that wasn’t working so they all had to be miked up. What followed was a continual mis-feeding of lines and people talking over each other or at the wrong time.

It also appeared that some actors and actresses were reading their lines from a laptop. Call me old-fashioned but I have always thought the uniqueness of theatre was seeing people act who had learnt their lines? Also the sea was represented by loads of balloons which was naff.

There were some good points. The lead actress did a sterling job holding it all together as the chair of the inquiry. The play itself reveals brilliantly the bullshit that surrounded the sinking. False reporting, avoidance of questions at the inquiry as well as downright lies told and stories of stunning personal incompetence.

I felt very negative after the play finished but on reflection I was too harsh. It had definite failings but there was something there that really worked. Fundamentally it is a good play and some of the cast did their best in very difficult circumstances managing to make a connection with the audience that is the essence of live performance – its uniqueness. šŸ™‚

Books and Reading

‘The Third Nero’ by Lindsey Davis

ParthenonDavis is a one of my favourite authors and one I slip back to for comfort (just like Pratchett).Ā  She has written a brilliant series of books following the adventures of Roman private investigator Marcus Didius Falco. I’ve read them all, they are silly but great fun. It looked like it had finished but then she started writing about his daughter Flavia Albia following in his footsteps. I’m not normally a thriller reader but these are not run of the mill.

Theatre of Dionysus at the Acropolis in AthensI love the way Davis recreates a sense of the ancient world and this one is a great one in demonstrating the stifling and claustrophobic operation of court politics. But it is silly with things that clearly wouldn’t happen like a woman being invited to look at the emperor’s bedroom when he is not there. A great escapist read and Davis has just written a new book in the series so I can look forward to reading that.

The Week Ahead:

  • 3 usual days in work. Lots of internal meetings including a big one around risk. I really need to set up some external catch-ups so I’m not too insular and develop a bunker mentality.
  • Work sports day 4pm on Wed (August always has these ‘fun’ events). Some people are really enthusiastic. My plan is just to be a spectator with a bottle of wine and cheer colleagues on.
  • Life without the gym begins. My plan is a 5k or swim on Tues or Thurs and the usual 10k on Sat. Plus some long, purposeful walks. We shall see.
  • Thurs it is down in the afternoon to Portslade to catch up with Bob in his nursing home. It’s his 80th birthday next week. Hopefully good weather will allow us to take him out for a coffee.
  • Will continue with my personal development stuff. No end point on it, just needs to constantly continue.
  • My plan is to read at least one new book next week, two would be great. My current book is an anthology of feminist speculative fiction which is a real eye-opener.
  • I really would like to get to the cinema, though depends what is worth seeing.

And Finally…

One thought on “August – the so-called ‘quiet’ month

  1. It was little ironic that the play about a disaster was a bit of a disaster itself, but as you say, the the lead did a great job (she is part of the National Youth Theatre I think). August is never quiet. My back is getting better, thanks for the support, no pun intended.

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