Which City?

Friday, 14 September 2012

What's Another Year? A personal and professional look back

I'm always full of ideas; there's plenty I want to talk about. I know I keep putting it off, never making the time to sit down and write. But today I have been shocked to see that it is more than a year since my last post on this blog. I feel like I am emerging from a long - not all dark - tunnel. What has happened in the past year?

September 2011, I know, was busy - a Leadership Development Programme for Harborough District Council for The Open Channel was just gearing up, as was an exciting new project for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation called Dementia Without Walls

In October, I moved across from the Board of Yorkshire and Humber Strategic Health Authority to support North Yorkshire and York PCT as Associate Non-Executive Director in its final 18 months as NHS Reforms began to be implemented. I started another project with Innovations in Dementia looking at Dementia Friendly Communities which was part of the LGA Ageing Well Programme Sheffield Council began the consultation with tenants to decide the future of Sheffield Homes, where I chaired the Board.

In November our daughter was looking intensively universities and we visited Liverpool, Newcastle, London (LSE and Goldsmiths) and Hull to understand their Psychology and Sociology courses and what else they had to offer. The hard decisions about fee levels had already been made, and at Sheffield Hallam University I had just started my term as Deputy Chair when we decided on £8500, just below the £9000 threshold.

In the run up to Christmas, I was busy with all this - some extremely creative and stimulating work, some difficult challenges. Family concerns were uppermost - we hoped our son would get through his degree without further illness, and I heard just before Christmas that my brother's health was deteriorating.

As it happened, in January he was in intensive care fighting pneumonia, a serious alcoholic with advanced cirhossis. I got to know Palma de Mallorca well over the next few months, visiting him in hosptial and a nursing home. I tried to see that experience in such a lovely city as a gift from him, rather than a burden. Charlotte applied to Liverpool, first and second choices.

February, March and April were dominated by my brother and there was mutual support from colleagues experiencing family tragedy whilst trying to work professionally. In particular my friend and colleague Janet Crampton's husband died sooner than expected after his diagnosis of lung cancer, prompting some deep reflection and a bit of crisis management. Sheffield tenants voted to get rid of the ALMO and go back in house, or as some said 'stay with the Council'

We went to Paris for my birthday in early March as we always do, but this time with friends - more joyful but also a bit more stressful! At Easter we rented a flat in Palma's Arab Quarter behind the cathedral and combined visits to my brother with trips to Valdemossa and Soller. Our son and daughter joined us for the Easter weekend and the spectacular if lurid parades.

In early May, whilst birdwatching at Spurn Head, my brother checked out of his nursing home and flew home. Later that month he moved to York. He is chronically ill, but active, cheerful, grateful, which is wonderful. Having survived earlier resits and panics, both our children faced final university and school exams in May. It was a stressful time, but they did it and I was proud of their effort regardless of outcome. At the end of May Dementia without Walls reached a climax with a Sounding Board event in York where our stakeholders gave their robust response to our findings

In June I spent a lot of time finishing fieldwork and writing up, helping my brother to settle in, and supporting our daughter through A levels. The financial position of the PCT was in sharp and public focus, the university's future was less clear at that point, but the waters everywhere were choppy. The Olympic flame started to move around the country, and the rain which followed it tolerated.

By July the LGA work was complete, the Dementia Without Walls report written and The Open Channel was reflecting on the success of Harborough and taking stock for the coming year. Charlotte went off with a friend for a month in Thailand and Tom secured a prestigious JRF paid internship. I was really pleased to have been offered the role of Chair of Compass UK which provides support to help people become free of problems with drugs and alcohol. Based in York, the charity works in London, the Midlands and the North and has a great range of services for young people, adults and families.

We enjoyed the Olympics from the cycling road race to Ellie Simmonds - we had tickets for the Olympic Stadium won in the ballot in 2011 when I used to write a blog. So much has happened in this year, both personal and professional. It's been great to work with brilliant colleagues and friends and to make some new connections - The Velresco Boys (yes we do call you that, you are so young!), Richard Bryan and QA Research and LinkedIn Regeneration Leaders' Group, to which I was introduced by David Marlow of Third Life Economics

It's September again, not a new year, but a new 'term' for many. Charlotte is going to Liverpool tomorrow, Tom two weeks into his internship. I've got a new piece of work with the Jo Webb of Webb Enables, which is a great re-connection, the prospect of some coaching and some facilitation through other networks, and a new Board appointment which I hope to announce soon.

Yet these are hard times for so many people, I see that everywhere, shops are empty again, people live on the streets, welfare reform is looming. This week I have been sad and angry this week about the Liverpool 96 - a blight on our generation. Over this past year I have often felt concerned for my own and my families future, and will continue to do so. But having looked back, I am going to try to be positive and optimistic about the next 12 months. I hope it won't be that long before I blog again. 



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