Edinburgh: Innovation in Celtic Tiger number one

Sun 1 – Wed 4 March

I have some spare time at Edinburgh and Dublin airports so I am using their free wi-fi to do a mini blog, not the usual weekly review.

Two big themes are dominating this fortnight (we’re in week one). First I am travelling over the fortnight to Edinburgh, Dublin and Belfast. Scotland and Northern Ireland are for work whilst the Republic is for a mini-break and catch up with some of the guys I have been on retreat with especially the one in Calpe which happens every two years and is on again June of this year – very exciting.

The second feature is that during these two weeks I am immersed more than usual in innovation – new ways of thinking and doing things. I love innovation, not for its own sake but when we know we can do things better. I really enjoy change and seeing what happens when we do things differently – nothing better than the buzz. For me, this is how we get things improved (though there is no inevitable trajectory to nirvana) and keep things interesting. All part of my restless wander spirit perhaps? Indeed, interesting whilst I am away on innovation type things is that my sleep is very restless, not in a bad way as with stress but with ideas charging around inside my head. Indeed on Wednesday night at the hotel I was woken up by shouting which I think was actually me shouting in my sleep.

Finishing the weekend
Sunday I was at my partner’s as usual. I worked remotely to get a funding assessment finished for work. But it was not all work with my jog-run (details below) then a visit to the local car boot where through the wonder of coincidence I got a Dublin guide book for 20p. Me and Dave talked about going out for dinner to celebrate our eight year anniversary the next day but by the time evening came, we could not be bothered. We agreed to eat in but the lifts had broken down in Dave’s block so I got sent out to buy food (not that I am saying my partner is lazy but… )

Clearing the decks
Monday was actually the eight year anniversary of us starting to go out together again. We had previously met in the Bell in Kings Cross (uber-trendy during the late eighties and early nineties) on Sunday 18th April 1993 – Dave always knows the exact dates. We went out for a few months then split and I ended up in Brighton. When I came back to London we accidentally bumped into each other again and the rest is history. Demonstrating the power of the internet, I put up a message about this on Facebook and got about 40 likes – thanks guys.

I saw Sara my PT in the morning then travelled across London to spend time with mum before I went away. Then a bus to Paddington to meet the very cool Dan from Nominet Trust to discuss digital and crossover points in our work. Then into work to get office stuff done before I started my big travel. Monday night I was with Dave but concentrating on packing for Edinburgh / Dublin.

Getting through Tuesday
Tuesday was an intense day. Before I could travel to Scotland, I had to get Grants Committee out of the way. This is the main body for signing off grant approvals. I had planned to go up to Scotland on Monday to take part on both days of the Innovation Lab covering Tuesday and Wednesday. But it was felt I was needed at Grants Committee as three big projects were up for funding consideration and I would be best placed to present and answer questions on them. The people on the committee are perfectly approachable but it is inevitably one of those intimidating set-ups based on the need for formality and correctness in terms of the financial decisions being made and there is an inevitable a staff-director power dynamic. Ultimately all went well with approvals for a new pilot programme to fund digital innovation and a new creative tech space for young people as well as possible approval subject to issues to be explored on a new initiative tackling stigma and discrimination around mental health.

Dash to the north
My journey from south London to Gatwick went smoothly based on advanced preparation (i.e. tickets already obtained) and luck that there were no big delays anywhere. A perfectly decent flight with British Airways so I got my free wine followed by a busy bus from Edinburgh airport. I dropped my stuff at the hotel and went out for my first proper relaxed meal of day before going back to the hotel and crashing. No time to explore tonight but I do like Scotland – it’s colder than England but there is something wonderfully solid and earthy about it. The accent is also sexy and there’s more ginger-haired guys around. Redheads are like marmite – love em or hate em though they are very much in fashion at the moment; I like redheads – how facile am I?

Innovation Lab at last
Wednesday I was up and on my pooter to deal with deadline stuff before attending the Innovation Lab I was in Edinburgh for. Innovation Labs are spaces where different people come together to work on ideas and develop the framework for them as far as possible. The Lab was run by SeeMe – the Scottish campaign tackling stigma and discrimination around mental health and it was a very good event. For me, it was great to have the buzz of people with lived experience of mental health problems enthused and fleshing out new project ideas. I worked with a small group about running an online-offline campaign to encourage people to make meaningful social contact with each other by sharing personal experiences and information. It was largely based on the experiences of a chap called Chris who is on a fascinating walk around the coast of Great Britain engaging people in conversations about mental health. It’s also good for me to see how events are being run to learn best practice for when I am trying to run similar workshops – I loved the ability to be able to write notes on the tables.

The day was great and we all got caught up in the enthusiasm of innovation and new ideas but the flip side was that when we finished, I was knackered. So I took myself off to a local coffee shop to deal with e-mails and chill before a nice meal in the evening then back to the hotel to watch the feature on Combat Stress on Great British Back Off (one of the projects I oversee the funding of) and Coronation St on ITV+1 plus monitor another QPR defeat – 2-1 at home to Arsenal. Down to the hotel bar for a glass of wine and some leisure reading to finish the night. Off to Dublin the next day.

You make plans and God laughs at them
This was a totally different evening to what I had planned. I was due to catch up with my old friend Andy who now lives in Scotland, I was actually going to meet him and his new partner. But he Facebooked me on Tuesday to let me know he was in hospital – he says something to do with his gall bladder but I think it’s more to do with diseases getting resistant to antibiotics 😉 Get well soon Andy!

Exercise, health, and reading
After a fortnight’s break I did my jog-run on Sunday with a fair result: 27.45 mins, 4.64 km, 5.59 pace, 345 calories. My legs felt wonderfully wobbly afterwards (proving the muscles had been worked) and my problematic Achilles was not aching too much although it did kick in as usual about 24 hours later. The only other exercise to report on was the session with Sara my PT, friend and former work colleague on Monday morning using the wonderful kettlebells again – I really enjoy those. No other exercise coming up until Friday week once I am back in London after my Celtic travels. This feels strange and I need to monitor my eating patterns which on Tuesday went completely haywire with the stress of a big meeting, dealing with e-mails remotely, and travelling: all crap food on the go until a meal a bit too late in the evening.

These few days have been about dealing with work stuff both good and bad. Despite lots of travel time, I haven’t made huge reading inroads which is disappointing – regular readers will know I like to devour books. I’m continuing to read the surprisingly scientific and philosophical Terry Pratchett novel ‘Thief of Time’. But linked to my immersion in innovation, I am also reading ‘Frugal Innovation’ bought at the recent NESTA event. It is reinforcing much I already know but also has some interesting points and examples. More details on both in my next blog by which time, hopefully, I should have finished them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.