The impact from a really good training course

Mon 9 – Sun 15 April 2018

Last week was definitely one in two halves. First half was all about a very rewarding training course. The second half was very creative: gym, films, languages, Brighton, and friends. Plus trying to catch-up on emails. 🙂


My week began in Brighton at the hotel after spending Sunday visiting Bob and tidying Brian’s flat. But there was a difference. Not back to London as per usual. Instead I went off to Three Bridges for a training course. I had to leave Dave on his own in the hotel and he made his way back to London later.

The training course I took part in was on Security Awareness and First Aid run by International Location Safety. Part of my work may mean I have to travel overseas in the ‘Global South’. In such places there clearly can be increased risk of incident, attack, kidnap, or accident and without the sort of back-up we would expect in the UK. Though clearly there are places it would be reckless to go to full stop.

Dave is backThis was great training. And I admit I was apprehensive about it. Not just the secrecy around its content but also 3 days out of my routine – how far would I get behind with emails?

Similarities to Fight Club

It was a 3 day residential course covering a variety of issues including risk assessment, dealing with weapons, general safety, First Aid, and so on. There was a good mix of classroom activity as well as off-site simulated exercises and ‘situations’ to be dealt with.

I can’t say too much as many organisations and individuals in the international development sector go on this training and it’s very Fight Club – no one talks about it. Not least so those going on it don’t have a heads-up on what to expect. It’s a training course built on the premise that you don’t know what to expect when you travel abroad.

The course eco-system

The venue was good – a golf club. Must be honest, I don’t understand golf – why not just go for a nice, long walk? And it does attract some iffy people (my dad included), those who would ideally like all the pink bits back on the map again. The trainers were fun. A bit blokey but doing their best to not live up to that stereotype. And the other participants were fine – there were only 3 boys including me with the women outnumbering us about 4:1. Tuesday evening was given over to Camilla Carr and her husband Jon presenting and discussing about the time they were held hostage in Chechnya for 14 months; more details here.

Real training

What was particularly great for me about this training is that it was real training that took me out of my normal context and challenged my ways of thinking. There is a danger that ‘training’ is often just about sitting in a room for a few hours and being spoken to or breaking into groups to write on flip charts. This training forced us to consider situations that were out of our normal thinking and comfort zones. Much of the training was very relevant to how I view things in everyday life including how I would typically act and what I should think about doing differently. And it was so refreshing to be out of the classroom so much.

It’s made me realise that I need to do more that challenges where I am – personal development only works when we move outside our existing boundaries. This doesn’t mean I am going to become a training junkie but it does mean I need to think about doing such really transformational training on a more regular basis.

motivational picture


My partner has been as great as ever. Had to leave him in the hotel on Mon morning as I went off to my training. And then 2 nights away so I didn’t catch up with him till Wed evening. And then on Thurs he went off to Berlin for a weekend away. It’s one of his favourite places. Apparently we discussed this at some point and I said I didn’t want to go. Can’t remember it myself. But good I didn’t go with everything that needed to be sorted on Sat re Brian. Me and Dave kept in regular contact and he definitely had fun; I’m a bit envious.

Brighton & Friends

Mist and Brighton PierSaturday I was back in Brighton. I travelled down by train early and spent time chilling before going to Brian’s flat to meet with his cousin so she could see where he had lived. We also met the priest taking his funeral. She wanted to talk with us ahead of the cremation.

The cremation itself is on Friday. After that my main reason to come to Brighton will be to visit my friend Bob in his nursing home. But I will combine it with visits to other friends I still have in the city. Indeed I may have more time to see them as previously it was all about Brian and Bob. I don’t know if I will ever shake my hatred for some of the horrible things that happened to me in Brighton in the past (drugs, lies, betrayal, etc). But perhaps I will find some kind of settlement at some point.

brighton pierIndeed whilst having my chill coffee before going to Brian’s flat, I bumped into my old colleague Antonia. She is a lovely person and someone I really admire. Great to catch-up with her though we have both been through some very challenging times recently.

Then I bumped into another old friend (Alf) when I popped into Brighton library to use their toilet. Yep there are some very good things about Brighton. 🙂

Innovation and Creativity

Don't cling to a mistake

Just one day in the office last week and that was Friday. Actually a relatively quiet day giving me a chance to catch up on emails that piled up during the training. Nice check-ins with my brilliant colleagues Jen and Sue. Then in the afternoon I had a catch-up with Victor Willmott from London Catalyst. This is an independent and long-established grantmaker funding projects around poverty and health in London. I have know Victor for many years and we have often worked together.



Institute of Contemporary Art in LondonHome from the training Wed evening. I decided the next day (Thursday) was going to be R&R – rest and recuperation. It could easily have become a day to spend on emails catching-up but I deliberately said ‘no’. Morning to the gym then in the afternoon to the ICA to see the film ‘120BPM’. I was so glad I did as it was excellent. It’s long – over 2 hours which normally I find difficult. But the time raced by and I never lost interest. Indeed the end came and I felt slightly bereft at its ending.

The film and its subject matter is probably a bit of an acquired taste. It’s about ACT-UP Paris during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s/1990s. ACT-UP were a group of activists who protested around the issue of AIDS; demanding better treatment for people dying and challenging prejudice around the disease. I can remember the whole period and ACT-UP. Great people but also a bit of a protesting cliche with lots of meetings and arguments. However they did great work (alongside other forms of campaigning) that forced increased resourcing to pharmaceutical research and speeded up medical trials.

So I suspect I loved this film because it fits with my memory box. But it’s also a beautifully sophisticated and discursive film mixed with music and dancing that only the French can make (compared to British kitchen sink melodramas). The cinema was not busy and I decided to do something totally different – the impact of the training earlier in the week? I always sit at the front of the cinema for the maximum impact (this really pisses off Dave) but this time I sat at the back and literally saw the film in a totally different way to how I would normally have viewed it. Did help that I was able to completely sprawl.

‘The Martian’

Sunday after the gym was not only concerned with me having a big tidy-up / sort-out (see below in ‘Personal Development’). I popped some stuff down to the THT charity shop in Pimlico (it’s great, well worth a visit) and picked up the DVD of ‘The Martian’ starring Matt Damon. I read the book which was good though very scientific. Lots of plaudits for the film and rightly deserved. I think the book is better but the film is still very good. Matt Damon himself is very buff. It’s a bit depressing that he is only a few years younger than me. 🙁

Health and Efficiency


Gym only twice: Thurs & Sun morning. Good workouts both days though I do wonder if I need to do something different with my personal fitness training. There’s a rumour my gym will close shortly for a refurbishment. Time to make a change?

No jog-run 🙁

the letter xNo jog-run primarily because my usual running route around St James Park and Green Park is totally disrupted by CHOGM – Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting with the London Marathon to follow. I don’t think I will be doing my jog-run for a couple of weeks.


Back to the GP on Friday morning to get this checked after being on an increased warfarin dosage for the week. Good news, my blood test came in at 2.7 which is well within the desired range. However because it has dipped I have to go back in a fortnight for another check. Hopefully if that is OK then I will have a longer gap before I need to return. Though I do need to go to the GP again soon to get renewal on my non-HIV meds. 🙁 Dealing with chronic ill-health is a pain.

Personal Development

I have not included my training course in this section as the 3 day course was so unique. I think it did help change my ways of thinking about several things. And that makes me think I need to find more personal development stuff that does that.

overwhelmed by noticesMy normal PD focuses on 3 things: improving my language skills via Duolingo, trying to get some coding practice done (usually via Code Academy), and keeping my work and personal emails under control.

letting goNo Duolingo during my excellent training course. The 3 days demanded my full attention. Plus no coding practice as per usual. I am thinking about doing an online course to force me to study but it might simply just get crowded out.

I also spent time getting back on top of emails  – all great until the next time they go out of control. Sunday I actually spent time generally sorting out stuff (books, DVDs, clothes, etc) and tidying up. I do find this quite therapeutic. Partly also done to appease Dave before he returned on Monday. 🙂

Books and Reading

‘The End of Eddy’

How disappointing was this book for me? 🙁 It’s a contemporary piece of auto-biography by Edouard Louis charting his life as a gay boy growing up in the 1990s/2000s in a very poor part of Northern France. It’s very ‘red-neck’ and has been widely praised. I am not going to knock this child’s life though I think I am right in saying some have challenged its authenticity including his family. No surprise there if true as they don’t come out of it as a normal, loving family unit. But the book simply didn’t work for me.

My main problem is that it really sits firmly within a whole genre of childhood misery stories where books have titles like ‘Please Daddy, don’t’. Lots of us have really horrible childhoods. My parents split when I was 5 and me, my mum and my brother were homeless for several years.

The future - next exitBut there is a point where you leave that behind. All the past has to offer us is how to live better. To dwell on the past is not useful in my opinion and actually constricts our development. Ultimately: that was then but this is now. So fine if you fancy a bit of misery lit but not my thing – too dreary and self-indulgent.

The Week Ahead

  • Brian’s cremation on Fri – the final goodbye. I plan to get to the solicitor to hand over the keys to his flat beforehand.
  • Dave is back on Monday – hooray! 🙂 Be great to return to our normal arguing and bitching about each other. 🙂
  • Two days of work: Mon and Wed. Lots of internal catch-ups – useful but dangerous in that we lose our external focus.
  • Catching up with the brilliant Sam Applebee of SuperGlobal on Wed to find out about his ongoing work in matching up for-profit companies with not-for-profits to enable their tech for good projects to progress
  • Should also be having a quick catch-up with my old job-share Nissa on Wed when she visits the office. Be good to find out about how her consultancy is going Think Social Tech.
  • I do have a Leadership Team social event on Tues evening – it’s all about encouraging bonding. And on Thurs night, an NPC event about charity mergers – hopefully I won’t be too tired to attend.
  • My target is gym 4 times next week. No jog-run because of the disruption to my route that will come with the London Marathon next Sunday.
  • Must use my personal free-time next week for maximum personal benefit. Not doing ‘paid working’ unpaid on Tues, Thurs & at the weekend. I must not just fill my time with catching up on work stuff.
  • Plan to finish my current reading book and move onto another one

Stunning half naked man - how could you not smile?

And Finally…

Don’t forget application are open for the Tech4Good Awards including the Comic Relief Tech4Good for Africa Award. Apply by 8 May. 🙂

Tech4Good Awards categories


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