The week the snow came (The Beast from the East)

Mon 26 Feb – Sun Mar 4 2018


So the defining thing about last week, without a doubt, was the cold and snow. It was cold in Berlin where me and Dave were. Temperatures just about zero during the day and falling well into minus figures during the night. But no snow, just biting cold. Our flight back on Tues was not disrupted due to the weather, indeed it all started kicking in from then on. Wed morning was amazing walking to work with a whole load of snow everywhere. Then on Thurs I walked across St James Park to get to the gym. It was bitterly cold and my ears were freezing. Part of me thought about turning back but I ploughed on.

Will the daffodils make it?

The saddest thing was seeing daffodils that had bloomed in the park but had been killed off by the snow. By the weekend it was slush time. As my dad would say, ‘Be careful you don’t slip arse over tit’. Sunday was a lovely day and as I walked across St James Park it was wonderful to see that it looked like the daffodils had survived and we could look forward to them blooming.

Travel: Berlin

Nollendorfplatz stationLast week began with our little sojourn in Berlin coming to an end – more details in my previous blog here. Mon was a chill day – both in terms of doing nothing and the temperature. Lots of coffee and pootering as well as a walk along Kurfurstendamm. Dave had an idea to go to Museum Island but most of the museums close on Mondays. Farewell drinks at some of our fave venues and the goodbye dinner chosen by Dave at his favourite restaurant, the Italian one: Trattoria á Muntagnola

A good night’s sleep, a quick coffee and then Tegel airport via Uber to get our plane back to London on Tues. No problems with the weather and we actually landed about 20 mins early. Snow blizzards on and off as we got the Piccadilly line back to the centre of town.

Innovation and Inspiration

Volunteering Wed night at Science Museum Late

Inside the Science MuseumSome really interesting things happened last week. First, I volunteered with my colleagues last Wed evening at the Science Museum which was fun though numbers could have been better.

The last Wed of every month is late night at the Science Museum and it is fab. There is a whole range of activities taking place including speakers, workshops, and even a silent disco. Museum late sessions are so worth checking out – they are not just safe spaces for second dates. 🙂

Our night wasn’t brilliantly attended because of the weather, that is just one of those things. I was working with Beth on the top floor to cover the dance workshops being run by Street League. They are a project that uses sport to engage with young people and help them into employment. Great fun and as soon as the classes started then people came and joined in.

Catching up with Matt from Reason Digital

Great on Thurs night to catch up with Matt from Reason Digital before I went to the Velvet Page book club. Reason are a brilliant digital agency based in Manchester and London who are very comfortable working with not-for-profit agencies to deliver tech for good projects.

Gone for Good appReason themselves are running directly some amazing projects like the Gone for Good app. This offers a common service to collect donations for charity shops. So much more efficient than charity shops in competition.


Further discussions about doing more matched crowdfunding i.e. we put up some money and a not-for-profit accesses that money by raising the same amount in a limited time via crowdfunding. We did our CrowdMatch pilot and 14 of the 16 projects raised 80%+ of their target. Indeed 11 raised the actual amount and more. East Durham Trust raised well in excess of their £10,000 total. I think all the projects found it hard work but rewarding particularly in that it gave them access to a whole new group of donors they didn’t previously know about.

How crowdfunding worksWe’re thinking about doing this again but with higher amounts to be raised. The first CrowdMatch raised £2,500-£10,000. We need to know if bigger sums of money can be achieved.

Social Impact Bonds

Discussions and clarifications around involvement in a Social Impact Bond. These are a new way of getting private investors to put their money into projects delivering social outcomes such as reducing offending rates or increasing educational attainment. They get their money back plus a small amount extra (5-15%) so long as the outcomes are delivered. The successful delivery of the outcomes triggers ‘outcome funders’ to put their money in so the private investors can be reimbursed. We would play the role of an outcome funder.

The advantage of these bonds is that the private sector are taking the risk element and providing the very large amounts of capital up front. Traditional funders could put up the money directly but not at the scale happening here (we are talking multi-millions). And the need to ensure successful outcomes puts a new discipline on the bond organisers (not-for-profit organisations themselves) to make sure these are delivered. A discipline that theoretically doesn’t always exist in grant funding.

It’s all very interesting and it would be fascinating to be part of the piloting work that is going on around this.

Image of networking

Work colleagues

One thing I’ve realised over the last week is that I work with a great group of people in my immediate colleagues. They are dedicated, balancing their own problems with the demands we have at work. They keep their cool and get things done. I am so blessed to have them and grateful for everything they do.


The more I travel and see innovation, the more I despair of the crap political situation we find ourselves in which primarily seems to be old people (mainly white and mainly men) arguing amongst themselves. How have we ended up here?

We get the politicians we deserve

I am a political animal and I make no apologies for that. However, no matter how much we hate politics or politicians, I feel we all need to engage in the political process otherwise the bastards take control. Unless we hold crap politicians, demagogues and corporates to account then they will take over things for their own benefits and stay there forever. It is very easy to look at nightmare politicians like Mugabe and Putin but any unconstrained politician is their equal no matter at what level of government.

Big vision and fresh blood

Politics is also about having vision. Knowing what kind of better world you want to create and knowing when is your time to bow out and pass on the baton. I have known people who just wanted to be MPs but had no idea what they wanted to do. And those that made it have become voting fodder. Oh for imaginative new and young politicians with big vision not scared to upset their party line or their safe salary. But then we get the politicians we create and allow to happen: mainly old, male, pale, and stale.

“Nationalism is an infantile sickness. It is the measles of the human race” Albert Einstein

The whole Europe thing epitomises the dire state of politics. I believe in European unity and am a pro-European. Why? Because I believe Europe is a beautiful place that can be a beacon in the world for liberal democracy. We live in a dangerous world and there is no guarantee that the fascists and authoritarians won’t win. I detest nationalism. Would I die for my Queen and country – no way. But I would die fighting evil and to build a better world. It is very depressing to see the way the UK is heading. The important thing is that those with an alternative vision of the future, especially those normally outside the establishment, keep fighting.

Health and Efficiency

Gym and treadmill


Gym took place three times last week – on the morning of Thurs, Sat, and Sun. On each day I did 20-25 mins on the treadmill which as well as weights. My theory is that I want to improve my body by building up my muscles as well as try to lose weight. If I can get my metabolism working faster generally and cut down on my bad food intake then it should work. I was worried about aggravating my joints but they seemed OK.

Walking to the gym on Thurs morning was horrid in the snow. Sat morning it was still cold and slushy. Sun morning was beautifully clear and not too cold. Perhaps I could have done a jog-run that day…


lose weight nowWeight after Berlin is not good. I’m hovering around 14 stone 4 pounds. I need to lose about 2 stone. I see pics of myself and realise how fat I am. Dave is the same and we need to lose weight not least so that we can live our lives in good health and for a decent amount of time.

There are a couple of habits I am trying to make into normal routines. First, to eat more fruit and veg. Second, to skip a croissant with my coffee on gym days. I actually find I don’t need breakfast before the gym as it can make me feel sick and sluggish.


A great post below by the wonderful Matthew Hodson laying out what being HIV positive means. Can there be anything more insulting than being asked if you are ‘clean’? This happens a lot on the gay scene. Funnily you would expect least stigma from other gay men but they are often the worst with judgmentalism and ‘slut-shaming’.

Personal Development

The success is staying on top of my emails both personal and work. This does make me feel like I am in control of things albeit temporarily and transiently. DuoLingo language learning is still intermittent. I am trying to create a habit of doing a bit each night before I read my book and go to sleep. Coding practice ain’t happening. 🙁

Books and Reading

‘The Sins of Jack Saul’ by Glenn Chandler (2016)

The Sins of Jack Saul by Glenn ChandlerI read this book for the wonderful Velvet Page Book Club that met on Thurs. We are a small and friendly LGBT book club that meets the first Thurs of every month 7-8.30 at Waterstone’s in Piccadilly. Please feel free to come along.

Our ‘secretary’ Robert did his magic again and got the author to attend. It was a great evening with wine and very engaging conversation. Glenn is a fascinating chap who also wrote the scripts for ‘Taggart’ and has put on various musicals including one on the life of Jack Saul.

The book itself is a lovely piece of social history. Fundamentally Glenn has pieced together the life of an Irish male prostitute who featured in two big Victorian sex scandals (though not the one centred on Oscar Wilde). And who also ‘wrote’ the infamous Victorian pornography book ‘The Sins of the Cities of the Plain’. It’s a fascinating story and reminds one of how recently being gay was illegal and totally clandestine with the possibility of receiving a life sentence of hard labour. Unbelievable but don’t forget being gay is still punishable by death in various parts of the world including Iran and Saudi Arabia.

A nasty piece of work?

My only criticism of the book, which I told Glenn, is that I suspect Jack was actually a nastier piece of work than the book makes out. I suspect life made him that way. But as Glenn pointed out, you can’t really write a biography of someone without falling in love with them a little bit. And don’t we all want to be loved, someone to wash us clean of our sins?

However, there is a fascinating point where Jack agrees to give evidence in support of a newspaper editor charged with libel for saying (truly) that a peer was gay. Jack did not have to give evidence but did and identified himself as a male prostitute who could then be prosecuted. Why did he do this? Was he trying to ensure the truth be told, was it to hit back against the establishment, was it the opportunity for public theatre? We just don’t know and can only guess.

Our next meeting:

Thurs 5th April 7-8.30 pm at Waterstones Piccadilly (we normally meet around a table on the upper level of the ground floor coffee bar at the back of the shop). Our book will be “Hidden Nature: A Voyage of Discovery” by Alys Fowler.

Dr Who audio adventure: ‘The Eternal Summer’

Doctor Who's TardisI had missed this one in the chronology of adventures I try to follow. The Doctor and Nyssa find themselves trapped in a time bubble where people’s lives are constantly repeated. Turns out things are controlled by an ancient and corrupted Doctor and Nyssa helped by a mythological being. Wonderfully silly but imaginative; a bit of fun to listen to. 🙂

The joy of the library

Sat I went to the library to return a couple of books. I love going to the library and I would recommend it if you want to cheer yourself up. I adore just wandering around the bookshelves. The sad thing is the lack of time to read everything. There is also something good about the fact that libraries are safe spaces for homeless people and those without access to computers. Not their original role but thank God they offer it as often no-one else does.

The Week Ahead

It’s a busy one and I will need to pace myself:

  • Attending my last Funders Who Tech meeting and handing the attendance baton onto my colleague Martha Young
  • Going to the Digital Impact Awards on Wed
  • Working with my colleague Jennifer Gordon (freshly back from visiting the work of Give Directly in Uganda) to identify some managed funds to invest in combining financial and social return
  • Catching up with Cassie Robinson of DotEveryOne and Mark Salway of Cass Business School
  • Second interviews for the Red Shed Senior Advisor role
  • Dinner on Mon night with my old friend David also known affectionately as Daisy
  • Mother’s Day next Sun so me and my brother will be treating mum
  • Hopefully gym three times next week with the possibility of a jog-run at the weekend
  • Finishing the Lindsey Davis book I am currently reading and starting a new reading book
  • Listening to a Dr Who audio adventure
  • Keeping on top of emails
  • Thinking about some travel and holidays in the future (always makes me happy)
  • Target of DuoLingo everyday and some coding practice

Plus the weather is getting warmer, the days are getting longer, and Zoe Ball is doing her challenge. 🙂

And Finally…

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