Back to normal week

Mon 19 – Sun 25 Nov 2018

A summary of 2016
The current situation around the Brexit deal
(it’s shit and we are better off staying in)

Gradually back to normal, sort of

I have realised that my weeks move in 2 regular cycles: ‘normality’ that leads onto crisis and stress before going back to normal to await the next crisis/stress period. Last week things sort of started to get back to normal after the craziness of moving flat – as related to my previous blog. Work on 3 days but not my normal 3 as I swapped Thurs & Fri. So Thurs was an all-day leadership team meeting and Fri was a day off. Weekend was a bit strange as Dave went off to Antwerp. Apparently he had invited me along but I said ‘no’. Can’t remember it myself…

The ripples from the move continue

Tues I took delivery of a new bed frame paying the delivery men to also set it up. So no more sleeping on the floor which really doesn’t work at my age – I can’t get up from somewhere so low with my dodgy knees. πŸ™ Still no news from BT. πŸ™ Seriously thinking about changing to the provider that the flats have been set up for. Mum is slowly getting used to the new flat though she does not like the central heating, shower, or electric cooker.Β 

Books and Reading

β€˜The World Goes On’ – a hard read

Finally finished this book by Laszlo Krasznahorkai. Wow, that was a hard read. It’s really dense; sentences go on forever, and paragraphs are few and far between. Such that you are left with pages and pages of text, and the stories being told are obtuse with little plot. It’s a book you get to the end of and look back with amazement at having got through it, glad that you did, and having no wish to do it all again. Pretty similar to climbing a mountain, I guess.Β 

So what’s it all about?

I’m not 100% sure. It’s fairly pessimistic. These aren’t light stories. But I suppose the overall theme is that life happens and time passes. Whereas so many books tell you a story and create characters, this just marks that time goes by and things happen to people – generally not good but people survive. I suppose that the book and its style is all about the hardness and weariness of life, that you just have to keep going. It’s strange how I engaged with the actual writing, often just speed reading as it was about getting through it more than anything. That was the theme of the book so perhaps the author had managed to merge the book’s style and message with how it is actually to be read. πŸ™‚Β 

Health and Efficiency


Out early on Sat though up at 5am to say ‘goodbye’ to Dave as he went off to catch Eurostar. I got a bit wet as it was gently raining and the trees had lost most of their leaves so there was no cover. But that was also quite refreshing.Β 

Overall, I did my full 10K and it felt easier than last week. But the actual improvement in performance was disappointingly small. Oh well, I think I need to focus on getting some smaller runs done during the week and losing weight. Still no news on my gym’s reopening date. πŸ™

The new jog-run trainers I bought
My running shoes when they were very new

Innovation and Creativity

A day with my management team colleagues

Thurs all day the leadership team was in a very cold Richmond by the side of the River Thames using space at Paypal. I had been volunteered onto the committee that organised the day so I had trepidation that people would enjoy it. Overall, it went OK. We definitely got to know each other better, shared information, surfaced some common problems, and were relatively honest. For me, the facilitators made it a bit too focused on getting to know about each other and I would have welcomed more practicality. Some issues that everyone knows are below the surface weren’t named and addressed. Mind you, sometimes with messy problems the best thing to do is not actually surface them and work around them. Perhaps some elephants in the room are best just left there. 

progress being made

The value of external input

We did have two external speakers to give some reflection. They were excellent. Mike Dixon dwelt on learning being in charge at Victim Support, Citizen’s Advice, and Addaction. The importance of being clear what you want to achieve, working with users (in all their different forms), operating in small agile project teams, and finally seeking to radically transform service delivery. Annika Small from Social Tech Trust talked similarly about how the principles of digital design can be transposed onto organisational change. Perhaps the best thing was the discussion that followed in a safe space on what we can all learn from failure. πŸ™‚

Social media and grant management systems

Mon and Wed had paperwork and emails to deal with. But also, two very interesting discussions took place. First, one about how to deal with negative responses on social media. Inevitable if you choose to have an active presence and all modern organisations need one. Don’t think you can post stuff and only generate love plus adoration. Second, a discussion about what a modern grant management system should be able to do. It’s not just about filing monitoring reports and paying out money. It’s also about storing images and info, customer relationship management, measuring impact, and sharing organisational ambitions to deliver change.

The risks of reflection, it becomes a bit indulgent

Wed night I popped along to the 20th birthday celebration of NESTA. Really interesting to hear about some of their main achievements and what are perceived as potential problems ahead. Though it was all slightly self-indulgent (and too long). We do need to think about the purpose of such public gatherings beyond raising morale and making us feel good about ourselves. Not least because they can take such effort and hard work to organise. 

Steve Jobs quotation



Fri was friends’ day. In the afternoon I met up with my old work colleague Philip (gay name Phyllis); he is the guy I go and spend time with in Andalusia. He is visitng London for a week. Frankly, I am not sure why he would leave warm and sunny Spain for cold and grey UK but good to see him. He knows everyone who does the Soho gay scene and so we met him holding court in Caffe Nero on Old Compton St. Always fun and slightly crazy.Β 

Tsar Nicholas II
Phyllis holding court

Tim (and Bob) 

Fri night I met with my old friend Tim. His partner Bob was working, he’s a famous theatrical photographer so much of his work takes place in the evening. My Dave used to get a Xmas pud from Fortnum & Mason each year. He realised he still had last year’s and it was in date for this Xmas. Tim & Bob really appreciate good food so I gave the pud to them.Β 

Me and Tim then went to the local Turkish restaurant for some decent kebabs. Though Tim was a bit upset as his favourite waiter wasn’t working as promised. Great food and excellent to catch up with Tim who I have known for about 30 years. We talked a lot about caring for parents getting older – isn’t that an issue for us all now? 

Personal Development 

For a week when I think I was getting back to normal, my PD efforts were crap. πŸ™

  • Duolingo 1/5 – a bit done but basically none on weekdays
  • Coding 0/5 – nothing and the only explanation I can give is lack of time πŸ™
  • Emails 3/5 – sort of on top but not as much as would make me feel really happy and unstressed


I hate Black Friday

over consuming

What a load of shit that is. So our planet is dying and an ecological crisis brewing. Which means companies try to sell us stuff we don’t need because it is cheap. And we can then just throwΒ  away all the perfectly good stuff it is replacing. This all adds up to further depletion of the Earth’s precious resources and more shit to go to landfill taking thousands of years to break down. The waters are rising and other species on our planet are becoming extinct forever but it doesn’t matter because we have new crap. πŸ™

The Week Ahead

  • My life finally may really be in a back to normal phase. Usual work days (Mon, Wed, Fri) & rest days (Tues & Thurs)
  • Main 2 exciting things at work: attending session to hear about DfID’s digital strategy and an internal review with my brilliant colleagues Jen & Amir on how Red Shed is doing – our social investment initiative. 
  • Tues I will be helping mum to unpack as my brother should have finished the stuff he is doing in the new flat for her – bathroom cabinets, towel rails, new chests of drawers. Now I need to persuade him to put up shelves for me and my books. Probably will be doing more sorting out on Thurs as well.  
  • Dave is back on Mon evening πŸ™‚ and I think the plan is to go to the ICA on Tues afternoon (cheap day) to see a gay film
  • Hopefully will be catching up with my old friends Dom and Daisy soon plus my former work colleague Nissa
  • I am reading a collection of sci-fi stories by the brilliant Chinese writer Cixin Liu
  • Possible I will do a little jog-run during the week but unlikely. However I will do my big jog-run at the weekend aiming for 10K again. 
Rugby league player in skimpy trunks
Why not?

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