Weeknote #14 — Trough

My first meeting on Monday got off to a bad start when people turned up woefully unprepared, and the week got worse from there. A coalescence of issues meant that the all of my time in the past five days has been spent almost entirely focused on the urgent and tactical rather than the important and strategic. Every day I find myself staring with disbelief at the clock as it signals the end of the day. The programme is hard and we are only scratching the surface so far. I’ve postponed my travel next week to focus on the work here but the team are pressing on. What a difference a week makes.

It’s been great to have a couple of Office 365 experts in town this week to spend time on helping people to get the most out of the platform. I learnt a few new things too. There’s a lot of depth to the features and half of the challenge is getting an understanding of what’s there to be used.

Being here next week means that I can still get to the school governor meetings I was going to have to miss. Last week we had training on primary school assessment data with the ever excellent Ben Fuller. The way the data is captured and presented changes on a regular basis which means that you never feel fully on top of it, so a couple of hours digging deep with all of the governors is time very well spent. It’s difficult to apply statistics in a primary school setting where each year group only has around 30 children but it is still good to use the data as a guide to look more closely at particular areas.

Last weekend’s F1 Chinese GP forced an early start on both days. Aside from being glued to the racing I managed to spend a lot of time outdoors, getting a 52mi bike ride in on Saturday and the whole of Sunday at the Wycombe Phoenix Harriers Junior Club Championships with the kids. My eldest boy learned a great lesson about pacing himself in the 1500m; he went out very quickly and eventually came forth with a time of 5m10s, 8s slower than the last time he competed. The youngest did great by coming second in the Y3/4 QuadKids (a long jump, throw, 75m and 600m runs) and picked up a gold, silver and bronze medal for the individual events. I’m very proud of them both. All of the athletes were brilliant and I overheard so many of them congratulating their friends on how well they had done; everyone seemed so supportive of each other. There were a couple of very heavy falls in the running and I really felt for the kids who had gone head over heels after so much anticipation of their big race. Saturday’s beautiful sunshine had disappeared and for the most part the event was incredibly cold; not great for the spectators but good for the athletes.

I managed to plough my way through Blankets by Craig Thompson, a really beautiful and touching graphic novel. It isn’t particularly profound, and doesn’t have the breadth and depth of From Hell (probably the only other big graphic novel I’ve read), but it’s a lovely story and I didn’t want it to end.

I’ve put the podcasts to one side for now in order to dive into my audiobook backlog. A while back I bought Richard J Evans’ trilogy on Nazi Germany — The Coming of the Third Reich, The Third Reich In Power and The Third Reich at War — and decided that now was a good time to make a start. I bought the Kindle version of the first book and it’s been great to see how well Whispersync for Voice works between the audio and eBook versions. After one week I’m already a quarter of the way though the first book but worry that I’m not taking enough of it in; it almost feels like a different book when I pick up the Kindle version in the evening and read a few pages at a slightly slower pace.

On Friday night I went to the Albert Hall to see Chas and Dave. I hadn’t realised that they released a new album on the same day and heard it on the way there — it’s not bad at all! The venue is visually stunning but the acoustics aren’t great, especially if you’re up in the gods; Chas was a little difficult to hear which was weird given that his mic seemed twice as loud as everything else. I had to rush there straight from work and couldn’t believe that a salmon sandwich and packet of crisps costs £7.80. Am I getting old?

I’ve never got up and down to let people in and out of their seats so much. Constant toilet and beer refill trips were the order of the day. Chas’ daughter Kate Garner came on and did Why Not Me, a number that appears on their new album, and was great. Down in the stalls people were in the aisles dancing their socks off and by the time we got to the crescendo of Ain’t No Pleasing You and an encore of The Sideboard Song everything seemed to go nuts. It was worth it just for those two alone. Great evening.

Next week: Managing a rollout remotely and trying to get that strategic stuff moved on.

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