BE A SLOB! BElfAst, Sheffield, LOndon, Birmingham (BDblog Sun 26 July – Sat 1 Aug 2015)

download (26)“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”  Socrates

An intense week primarily because of being away from home particularly attending a very useful but thorough Tech for Good boot-camp in Sheffield. Though before that I was in a very wet Belfast. And last week was the five year anniversary of mine and Dave’s civil partnership so we treated ourselves to a weekend break in Birmingham. A big drawback on last week though was that I failed to achieve any quality long-distance exercise walks.


download (27)The previous Sunday started early getting a 6.45 tube to ensure I got my 9.50am flight to Belfast. Iffy weather in London was followed by solid drizzle in Belfast. I learnt my lesson from my last visit and this time stayed in the very nice University quarter by Queen’s University – a good mix of students, charity shops, restaurants, late night coffee shops, and convenience stores; my kind of place! Lovely day of reading with a late afternoon power snooze. Both friends who live there were out of town which was a shame but I do also like having time on my own.

A good meeting but a difficult onward journey

Monday was a monitoring meeting on Change Your Mind, the new Northern Ireland campaign to tackle discrimination around mental health. Early days as only the first quarter but seems to be going well. Nice to be working with mental health charities and the public health agency. It rained all day and I went off after the meeting to City airport for a flight to Manchester then a train to Sheffield. All fine apart from a ridiculous situation at Manchester Airport where they couldn’t find steps to get us out of the plane and we waited half an hour. Horrible airport in terms of layout (i.e. queueing for lifts with no option to use stairs). I tried to get a response from the airport on twitter but no response, presumably because it was after 5pm and they had gone home. Tapton_Hall_of_Residence2I made my train connection but it was a slow journey with no wifi then a taxi to the conference centre at Halifax Hall, part of Sheffield University. No drinks with the other participants because I was so tired and so straight to my room in the halls of residence – ah what memories that brings back…

Why was the Sheffield Tech for Good boot-camp so good?

I cannot say how well the Tech for Good boot-camp went even though I only joined on Monday night – the other participants started on Sunday evening. What was amazing was the level of commitment by the projects and the technical experts / mentors brought in to assist them. I seriously wondered if people would stay the course over three days but they did they did with nobody sneaking off early which makes a change. And people were working non-stop even with speakers to accompany the evening meals. What worked was a very dedicated group of people taken from their normal environment and put into another (pleasant) one where they were forced to analyse and deconstruct/reconstruct their tech project without diversions. My only criticism would be that all we seemed to do was eat and sit – more movement would have been good. And obviously its long term success will only be proven by the projects delivering; the proof of the pudding being in the eating. Congrats to James Boardwell of Rattle Central and Cassie Robinson of The Point People for organising. Oh and a really nice gossipy train journey back with my work colleagues.

Busy Thursday back at the office

It felt after such an intense period that Thursday was the weekend but alas twas not. Thursday morning I took Mum to the laundrette. Whilst I was away an MRI scan had identified the specific problem with her knee which was good but she needs a referral to an orthopaedic consultant at the hospital with surgery a real possibility. Then onto work though checking out my favourite charity shop on the way and getting half a dozen books. Strange atmosphere in work with the ongoing consultation period on the change proposals though I took in strawberries to share around and cheer people up. Meeting done to agree the grant applications going to the next round of the application process. I arrived in the office 12.45 and left at 6.45 so not really the half-day it should have been – part-time working doesn’t work.

Birmingham calling

download (28)So Friday off with Dave to Birmingham for a little city break, treating ourselves for the five year anniversary of our wonderful civil partnership that took place at Chelsea Old Town Hall. We like Birmingham as it is wonderfully industrial with a nice museum, good shops, sexy people, and a fun gay scene. Nice journey on Virgin (for a change) and, for me, an afternoon of checking out the local exchange picking up some books and DVDs as well as a drink and reading outside Equator watching the people stream back from the Ashes match (England victorious) at Edgbaston. Evening – a nice meal and bed by midnight for me; such a lightweight.Dave went out for a drink and came back about 1am.

download (29)Saturday I left Dave sleeping and went back to the exchange to finish my browsing of their secondhand stock buying more books, DVDs and CDs. More al fresco drinking before I pottered down to the trendy Custard Factory to look around. Fortuitously a vintage fair was taking place so I browsed the stalls before stopping for a lovely cup of tea and piece of cake. Dinner was a nice Chinese with Dave and then I went out for a drink. Very buzzy Saturday night though main participants seemed to be people in hen nights. Still a lightweight, I was in bed and asleep by midnight again.

Books and other personal development

Because of my busyness, very limited reading this week. Only one book completed – Fay Weldon’s ‘The Life and Loves of a She-Devil’. A beautiful study on revenge though I am left wondering whether for the ‘heroine’ it was really all worth it? Also a savage indictment of the money and ‘beauty’ society we exist in. I’m also reading William Styron’s ‘Darkness Visible’, a study in depression and a book that has motivated me to re-explore my own dark period – more to come in a separate blog.

Little to report on languages apart from a couple of sessions on the ever wonderful DuoLingo whilst I regard my immersion at Sheffield as helping to develop my digital skills and I certainly found out about some excellent sites: to edit photos and for great short films.

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