HIV is still crap (and so is January / February)

Mon 15 – Sun 21 Jan 2018

Last week was when I properly re-entered the New Year and it was hard work. The final day of my beautiful two week holiday came then it was back to London and my new job. Amazing how quickly things get back to normal. Though I do find this time of year hard work and I had the added twist of my annual HIV check-in which inevitably brings up negative feelings no matter how good the clinical results. 🙁

Health and Efficiency


Wed afternoon was the date for my annual meeting with my HIV consultant. The usual routine of sitting in an NHS waiting room, the consultant running late, going through if anything was different, waiting to get bloods and other tests done by surly nurses, then more waiting for my meds to be issued by the hospital pharmacy. It’s a demoralising process and reflective of what being HIV means these days.

different meds for HIVHIV is now pretty much a boring, chronic long-term disease. Of course there are still people who will not know they are infected and present with AIDS. But for most of us, the ‘drama’ of the old days has gone – which is good.

It’s now about dealing with a group of people who probably have got a slightly higher risk of heart disease, stroke or cancer. Plus perhaps with bigger mental health and negative lifestyle factors than the rest of population which also likely helped lead to infection in the first place. And as ‘Undetectable equals Untransmissable’ impacts so HIV care is really about the care of ageing people.

Gone are the old days of HIV units as places of innovation, challenging medical orthodoxy, and unending cheerfulness. We more or less have reached a point where it is treatment based on the medical model rather than the social model. We’re fundamentally where if your CD4 count is good and viral load undetectable then that is problem solved. But I suspect if you offered any member of the public the choice of being diabetic or HIV positive, 80% would go for the former based not on medical knowledge but on their thinking and prejudices around HIV that still exist.

Illness - death headsNo other chronic health problem comes with such baggage. Cancer is linked to lifestyle and people who survive are seen as heroes – rightly so. And yet HIV is still something grubby, secretive, and a choice with an element of ‘you broke it, you own it’.


Male gymnastBack to the gym on Fri. I renewed my annual membership costing several hundred pounds. It’s a lot but not too much when you think about the monthly cost. And it’s something I really enjoy. 🙂

A really fit guy was working out at the same time in just a pair of small shorts. A great body but he didn’t intimidate me as he hoped to – my right to be there was as much as his. Fundamentally I know I ain’t gonna have as good a body as him (I’m too old) but I can still enjoy myself.

Back again on Sun morning for another good work-out. Twice in my first week back ain’t bad.


lady running in cold weatherUp early on Sat to ‘test the water’ going out for a coffee. The weather was cool but with sleety rain. My decision was not to do my jog-run, I just wasn’t in the mood. Perhaps I should have gone to the gym but instead I had some time to myself.

Indeed, Sat turned into a lazy day where I just pottered around, ate and slept. I do find Jan / Feb hard work not least because of the dark and the cold.

I probably should have gone for a jog-run on Sun as the weather was dry-ish. Managed to go to the gym but not enough motivation to run. TBH I think I am going to put my jog-runs on hold because of the cold unless I feel really motivated. Running in dry weather above ten degrees is so much nicer.

The end of the holiday

So last Mon was the last proper day of mine and Dave’s Gran Canaria holiday. We were determined to squeeze  out all the goodness of the last day. Thankfully we had another decent day with temperatures of around 22 degrees; sunshine but with some intermittent cloud. A day mainly spent on the sun lounger by the pool which feels so different from grey London now as I write this blog. Plus we made sure we had some trips to our favourite coffee shops as well as cocktails. Hey, the point of a holiday is to relax and have fun. 🙂

Travelling back

Tues we finished our packing and then effectively spent the day hanging around. Last days of holidays are either leave early and get back to normal quick or leave late but still trying to make it a holiday day. Ours was the latter. We spent time having a wander plus a last drink and coffee before going off to the airport for our 15.50 flight.

Travelled on which was really good though helped by the plane not being totally full. The main problem was that we flew into Stansted, our least most useful airport. Quite simply when we booked this holiday a year ago, the plan was Dave would have retired and I would be on my sabbatical. So getting into Stansted late was not a problem in that we didn’t have work the next day. That is true for Dave but not for me. 🙁 Actual logistics worked OK (Stansted Express and Victoria line worked fine). But not back home until 10.30 and I still had to sort meds for the week ahead plus unpack then get up at 6.30 for work.

My New Job: Head of Influence

Tired lionBack to work last week on Wed morning, Thurs all day, and Fri PM though the latter was remote working. I was feeling very chilled after my break and was determined to maintain that. Be interesting to see if I can keep that going as the time passes.

Respecting the past but going forward

Meetings with my new team members to check they are OK and how I can help them as well as to start to plot our way forward to do new and exciting things. We had our first team meeting and brought in some of the senior managers who have taken redundancy in order to pick their brains. It’s really important not to belittle what those who have gone before us have done and achieved. But it is also important not to be a slave to history and to chart new ways forward; perhaps even that what would have been unthinkable before – this way lies innovation and change.

Taking forward our new experiential travel team

Image of networkingParticularly delighted that the people appointed to run the new Experiential Travel team were doing really good stuff in terms of sorting out seamless international trips for filming. 🙂

It was excellent to have some time with the new travel team leader and plan ahead for what we would be doing in terms of exciting new developments after the initial phase of dealing with routine stuff is completed. Also very heartening to know that we had a strong number of good applications for the additional travel team post.

Vacancy: Senior advisor social investment & innovation

Less great news on the number of applications for the exciting post I have on offer of Senior Advisor for Social Investment and Innovation. Thus we have decided to extend the deadline for applications, rolling over the current applications and also seeing if we can get some more. It’s a great opportunity so please do highlight it to anyone you think would be interested – details here. Closing date 4 Feb.

Next week I continue to move forward in terms of meetings and discussions that will chart a new way forward – exciting and stimulating.

Steve Jobs quotation

Personal Development

I kept on top of my personal and work emails whilst away simply to ensure that I wasn’t completely swamped on coming back. Particularly with reference to work, I was able to hit the ground running. 🙂 And I kept this up as last week continued.

Unfortunately (and as per usual), not the progress I wanted on Duolingo nor coding although I did do some small practice. It’s counter-intuitive thinking but is it actually easier to do things with normal routine again? Indeed, does learning only work when it is made into a routine?

Time with mum

One of the good things about coming back was being able to spend time with mum. My brother has been keeping an eye on her whilst I was away. She is OK and progress is happening on moving flat within the estate as it is being re-developed. Our new flat has been allocated and the changes are being made internally as recommended by the occupational therapist who assessed her. It’s nice just to spend time with mum in the evenings despite her annoying habit of keeping changing channels on the TV.

She was supposed to come for a fish and chip lunch with me & Dave on Sat but decided not to due to the crap weather. Couldn’t blame her at all, the weekend was depressing in terms of the wet and cold. I think everyone sensible just wanted to stay indoors. Though I did admire my friends who went out to see the Lumiere light festival around London.

Charles II exhibition

portrait of King Charles III managed to fit in this Royal Collection exhibition featuring art linked to the restored monarch as well as his ill-fated successor James II. It was much busier than expected and felt quite claustrophobic. It’s OK but really is just a show about the court. I would have liked some more stuff illustrating what England was like in this period. Primarily it’s an exhibition of ‘sumptuous’ royal paintings and engravings of heroic monarchs.

The saddest thing for me is that the republic after the execution of Charles I failed. This exhibition felt like an infantile nation and people running back to the ‘safe’ robes of the king rather than having confidence in themselves. Here was a chance for the nation to be grown-up and modern but the decision was made to turn back to the past. And the UK is still stuck there with our obsession with monarchy and where we have been rather than where we are going. Historical exhibitions like this really are nothing more than tourist fodder and do not take us anywhere as a nation. 🙁

Books and Reading

‘All the Birds in the Sky’ by Charlie Jane Anders

One day at a timeOne I’ve heard interesting things about and that has been on my kindle for ages. Overall, I liked it. However there are bits that disappoint. It’s kind of a YA (Young Adults) book but with some very adult bits like comparing genitalia.

A boy and girl grow up together. He is a tech geek and she is a witch. Their lives diverge but then come back together. The sub-plot is the clash between technology and magic with a big  final reckoning.

I liked this because it’s an easy and pleasant read. Two things I really didn’t like. First, the borrowing from J.K.Rowling. Contemp lit is so in her shadow and here we have in part a story about a school for witches and wizards. Second, it is pessimistic in so many ways – seeing a dark and bleak future for humanity. We live in strange times and it is easy to not be optimistic. But so much literature and thinking at the moment seems to head towards apocalypse. Indeed, it almost seems to be more comforting rather than trying to work out how we make the modern world work better for everyone. In that way I find apocalyptic writing both lazy and a bit of a cop-out.

The Week Ahead

  • Getting into the swing of my proper working and non-working days: paid work on Mon, Wed, Fri
  • Continuing to have internal and external conversations linked to my new role. Particularly looking forward to catching up with Peter Jacobs from The Royal Foundation and Matt Moorut from Tech Trust.
  • Attending our Trustees’ meeting on Wed to introduce myself and the rest of the new Impact & Investment leadership team
  • The shortlisting meeting for the Tech for Good applications (deciding which ones go on the public longlist and which ones are to be assessed for a possible grant) on Fri marks the final handover point on this work to my successor Martha
  • At least 3 gym sessions with the possibility also of a yoga session or even a jog-run (see how I feel and what the weather is like)
  • Duoling, coding practice, and keeping on top of emails will all happen
  • Big party on Wed night to mark the leaving of many work colleagues after the recent work restructure
  • Aim to get through a couple of reading books and listen to some audio books

And Finally…

My brilliant former colleague Nissa Ramsay has set-up her own consultancy: Think Social Tech. Please do have a look at her website and contact her if you think she might be able to help you.







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