Future focused

Mon 19 – Mon 26 Sept 2016

So slight difference to my normal blog in that it’s Mon to Mon rather than Mon to Sun. The reason is that I am off to Malaga to see my old work colleague Philip (don’t call him Phil) on Tues. And was down in Brighton on Sun to see my old chaps on Mon. Thus it feels sensible to do this as one blog rather than keeping to a rigid pattern (with a weird divide) simply because ‘that is what we do’. A sentiment that is the antithesis of innovation, agile and lean.

Future planning

The next 18 months

The future - next exitLast Mon I saw my my life-coach Kerr. We now meet every 4-6 months as a check-in mechanism and to consider the future. Life is generally pretty good at the moment so we talked a lot about the future. Not the big future like what am I going to do with the next 20 years before I die? But the near-future, the next 18 months. I will carry on with my current post which is exciting because we have the next UK Tech for Good programme coming up as well as the research on social tech ecosystems in sub-Saharan Africa and an International Tech for Good programme. Plus the the future always throws up other unplanned stuff. I will have been at my current employer 8 years in November. That means I am allowed to apply (not guaranteed) for a 3-6 months sabbatical with 6 weeks paid. Dave would love to go to Australia. I have not been there (been to NZ 30 years ago) and it would be interesting. Be nice to see my mates living over there now like Em & Trish and Mel & Damian. But there are serious health considerations that are detailed below.

Only working my hours and being challenged

Also agreed with Kerr that I need to ensure I only work for my paid time when my hours go down at the end of Sept from 3 to 2.5 days p.w. as I lose my half day for supporting the abstinence-based recovery projects – their grants are ending. So just two and a half days each week solely on digital. I need to make sure that there is an extra half day for me and not let it be filled by work particularly via logging into emails or doing work remotely. And we agreed that I need to do something that challenges me to avoid becoming complacent. Didn’t agree what, I’m still thinking about that. Ideas coming to mind: non-exec director post, swimming, cycling or a proper accredited course in digital or languages.

Digital and work

Queen’s Young Leaders shortlisting

commonwealth symbolMy main work focus last week was on shortlisting for the Queen’s Young Leaders. Young people aged under 29 can apply to receive this award that lasts for a year. About 60 are awarded enabling the young people to receive mentoring, training and recognition. Overall I read about 200 though there were several thousand applications. I must say how very inspirational some of the applications were. Some amazing stories from young people living incredibly difficult lives. It’s a truism but we don’t appreciate how lucky we are. Also some fascinating uses of tech to deal with problems that these young people and their societies face on a daily basis.

My vain attempts to keep things under control

In the office all day Tues and Wed plus Thurs & Fri afternoons. My last week of doing 3 days. Things that happened:

  • Catch up with my old work colleague Elise. We worked on the Innovation Labs initiative together several years ago. She is now living in Madeira and working at an innovation agency Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute m-iti.
  • Ongoing work getting ready to launch our new UK Tech for Good programme on 3 Oct – news story here. Work included briefing our colleagues who deal with enquiries from applicants.
  • Meeting of my new team – good to catch up including with our acting Grants Director. Also a one-to-one with my colleague Matt who has returned from paternity leave after several months. Exchanged some nice ideas around future working.
  • Worked to get final sign off on the joint research project to be done with Nominet Trust & Indigo Trust on social tech ecosystems in sub-Saharan Africa. Hopefully tender will go out 29 Sept.
  • Meeting with a Big Lottery Fund colleague to get some more info on the digital work they are looking to fund.
  • Represented my team on a group with reps from the other 3 teams in our directorate to work out how we could encourage working together and resist the rise of artificail divides. I really pushed for a collaborative culture rather than creating sign off processes and procedures which will ultimately piss off everybody. Remember BUREAUCRACY IS ONE OF THE GREATEST DANGERS TO HUMANITY.
  • Vainly tried to catch up on my emails and answer everybody I should do before I go away – it’s an impossible task, like being Sisyphus.


Big disappointment on Thurs night. Me and Nissa had been invited to a MySociety event for their trustees and partners to meet. Unfortunately it had to be cancelled because the CEO’s mum had been taken seriously ill so that he had to travel back to Glasgow. Do have a look at some of the great projects MySociety runs here. Hopefully the event will happen at a later date.

Mum and Jamie

Lots of time with mum as she recovers from her knee op before I go off to Spain for 10 days. Laundry again last Mon morning which was actually quite relaxing as I spend most of the time reading. Then with mum on Mon, Tues and Thurs nights. Thurs was a surprise as I thought I was going to be at the MySociety event.

And on Mon had my regular lunchtime catch-up with my mate Jamie. Some people talk about ‘hey let’s meet up for coffee’ and nothing happens. Hats off to J, he is brilliant at keeping in touch and ensuring our coffee meet-ups happen. Much better than me. Main topic of conversation was holidays – mine to Berlin Folsom and then the upcoming ones to Malaga and Gran Canaria. His upcoming one to Gran Can – a place he is still trying to learn to like.

Health and efficiency

Facing the future but chronic health problems

blood clot in a blood vesselBig health issue reared its ugly head last week. There was a possible opportunity to go to Singapore linked to the tech for good work. I would have loved to go but had to say no. I take warfarin on a permanent basis to avoid getting blood clots. It’s permanent medication and the clotting level (INR) needs constant checking. I don’t want a repeat of 10 years ago when I ended up in hospital with pulmonary embolisms and nearly died. Obviously there is the problem of long flights. The longest I have flown since the PEs is 4 hours. Singapore is about 13-16 hours flying non-stop. Cooped up in economony class for that long is probably the thing I could do most likely to lead to clots. It’s going to be an ongoing issue in the future. I think 6-7 hours is probably the max I could do.

How can I get to Australia?

Picture of Australian continentSo the blood clotting would be a real problem in going to Australia with Dave. How could I deal with the long flight? I have considered sailing but it’s slow and very expensive (circa £10K return). Only option might be for me and Dave to travel business or first class. OK that’s expensive as well (c.£5k return) but possibly the only way I can try to ensure no clots. There will also be the issue about insurance when I get there. I will be really pissed off (and possibly dead) if I spend thousands of pounds and still get PEs.

Gym & jog-run

Gym twice last week but not well spaced apart. Went on Thurs and Fri mornings. Concentrated on calves and achilles as they are causing me problems. Plus upper body exercises as well as core and legs. Finally 15 and 18 mins on the rowing maching Thurs and Fri respectively.

Jog-run on Sat because Sun I was travelling to Brighton. All went very well as shown by my tweet below.


Sunday chill time

seagull on a brighton railingDown on Sunday. Engineering works at Victoria meant a difficult and expensive train journey. So I travelled via the coach. Perfectly decent journey though no wi-fi (come on National Express, get modern) and it took 2 hours and 20 minutes. Decided to have a ‘Billy bolt-hole day’. One of those days when it’s just me, myself and I. There are loads of good friends I could have met up with in Brighton. And it would be lovely to see them. But I also just need time to myself now and then, plus my pooter and my books. And that is what happened, an afternoon of pootering, reading and drinking coffee. Plus out in the evening to a fun Mexican restaurant for a nice burrito and a glass of wine.

Bob and Brian

Up and off on Mon morning to see my two old chaps I keep an eye on. First, Bob in his nursing home. He was fine and I pushed him in his wheelchair out for a coffee at a nearby cafe. We sat and watched the world go by. We took the umbrella but managed to avoid the showers. No real gossip though it turned out that his new room used to be that of one of the ladies we often saw but had passed away (Peggy). Then onto the usual cafe to see Brian. He is also fine though his beloved dog has recurrent diarrhoea. Then back to London for me and getting ready to travel to Spain the next day.

Books and reading

‘Every Man for Himself’ by Beryl Bainbridge

sinking of the titanicBeryl is an author I like. She is dead now but an absolute character, extremely funny and irreverent plus a chain smoker. Her books are wonderfully engaging and very English. Thus I was looking forward to this one. It’s about the sinking of the Titanic. But I was disappointed. I found it incredibly difficult to get into. Ultimately the theme is a well worn story and this was really about a group of posh people arguing. Bainbridge is so much better when she concentrates on working class people and kitchen sink dramas.

‘Bryant and May On The Loose’ by Christopher Fowler

I love Christopher Fowler as an author. He is one who seems to get better as he writes more and gets older. This is the next one in the series about Detectives Bryant and May of London’s Peculiar Crimes Unit. Very cleverly written and loads of wonderful stories about London. I thought of it looking out of the coach window going down to Brighton and seeing the human infestation that we call London.

Dr Who audio-adventures

I’m quite addicted to shuffle on my ipod which brings up music and clips of Dr Who adventure books, all random and mixed up. It is wonderfully eclectic and stimulating. Indeed the Dr Who clips remind me of stories I have listened to and some that I still have the pleasure to come.

‘Circular Time’ (fifth Doctor Peter Davidson + companion Nyssa)

I didn’t realise this was a set of four short adventures. So when the second one started it took me a while to realise this and stop trying to work out the connection to the first one. Four perfectly decent interludes. I think my favourite is the Doctor and Nyssa meeting up with Sir Isaac Newton. A nice old-fashioned time travel story with no aliens but great human characterisation.

‘The Gathering’ (fifth Doctor Peter Davidson + companion Teegan)

This really confused me at first and took a long while to settle down into the story. It links to another adventure which I can’t remember hearing. The lovely thing is that the Doctor is travelling alone but meets up with old companion Teegan. She is still wonderfully feisty and deadpan. We learn she is terminally ill and turns down the Doctor’s offer to try to find a cure. Moving and thoughtful as she dwells on the wonderful life she has had.

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