Monday, October 31, 2005

"Your Health, Your Care, Your Say"

Secretary of State for Health Patricia Hewitt MP who led the "Your Health Your Care Your Say" event on Saturday in Birmingham - the first ever Citizens Summit in Britain
I was a one of a team of 100 facilitators on Saturday as 1000 people attended the first ever Citizens Summit in Britain. – see BBC Report at this link;

The event was held at the International Conference Centre in Birmingham and brought together 1000 members of the public to help the Government decide the priorities for healthcare outside hospitals for the next few years.

There is to be a White Paper called Health Outside Hospitals published later this year and the opinions of members of the public have been gathered through a series of regional events that culminated on Saturday in this massive event.

It was a great to be involved in a history making occasion. Never before has any government department brought together 1000 people to inform ministers about what the public want.

I was impressed with the technology and indeed the organisation of getting 1000 people into one large room from 9am until 5pm – with only a 20 minute break - and the productivity and outcomes were awesome.

Each facilitator had a table of 10 people and we were asked to input live online through laptop computers the comments and views of our 10 members of the public to a 'theme team' who then summarised the thoughts and displayed them on two massive screens in the hall. Instant feedback - wonderful!

Patricia Hewitt - Secretary of State for Health was there all day and got herself around the room to talk to a lot of people.

The cynics will ask was it all worth it and will the government really take any notice.

Mrs Hewitt assured everyone and the massive audience of Web Cast and TV watchers that the views will be taken seriously and the White Paper will reflect the views of the public. I feel that she means what she says.

Although it was a long day - and really hard work for me and the other 99 facilitators - I came away with a good feeling about this event. It seemed a genuine and serious effort to truly listen to the public about the future of the National Health Service.

And given the financial investment the Government has made in this consultation there will quite rightly be uproar from the population if the views expressed are not taken seriously.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Bureaucrats write memoranda both because they appear to be busy when they are writing and because the memos, once written, immediately become proof they were busy” - Charles Peters

Thursday, October 27, 2005

A fine little chap

For me one of the deepest joys is to know my 'blood line' is to carry on. I am sure I am not alone in thinking that.

Yesterday Annie and I had the opportunity to go and visit Sebastian my 6 month old Grandson. We are only able to see him occasionally and this was one of those very special days.

I am sure it is the same for all Grandparents but there is definitely a warm tingly feeling when you reflect that there is someone who will - God willing - carry on the blood line.

An awesome feeling - Sebastian is a wonderful little chap.

Now I am getting all sentimental :-)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

George Galloway
pointing the finger!

George Galloway - Hero or Villian?

George Galloway is without doubt an interesting politician.

He has something about him that makes me pay attention. He is so brash and confident that he sounds convincing. He is in the news again today because he says he has been falsely accused of lying under oath by the US Senate committee which accused him of receiving oil cash from Saddam Hussein.

Mr Galloway said: "I am ready to fly to the US today... to face such a charge (perjury) because it is simply false."

That sounds like confidence to me and I am sure he is not just wanting a trip to the States to do some early Christmas shopping!

It is covered on BBC News at this link

Whether George Galloway is right or wrong does not really interest me that much. The fascination to me is why he grabs so many headlines.

Like him or loathe him - I guess he has charisma and is an excellent speaker.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Read an interesting
story below about
this little chap

A little weekend comic relief

A little bird was flying south for the winter. It was so cold the bird froze and fell to the ground in a large field. While it was lying there, a cow came by and dropped some dung on it. As the frozen bird lay there in the pile of cow dung, it began to realize how warm it was. The dung was actually thawing him out! He lay there all warm and happy and soon began to sing for joy. A passing cat heard the bird singing and came to investigate. Following the sound, the cat discovered the bird under the pile of cow dung, and promptly dug him out and ate him.

Moral of the story:

1) Not everyone who shits on you is your enemy.
2) Not everyone who gets you out of shit is your friend.
3) And when you're in deep shit, it's best to keep your mouth shut!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Tony Benn

A busy 80 year old

and a real gentleman.

Tony Benn - Part Three - see previous Simplicity posting dated 6 September

Today was an ordinary working day when out of the blue Tony Benn rang to thank me for sending him a copy of my book.

He said he had enjoyed reading it and had passed it on to his son to read as part of a management course. Of course I was delighted that he enjoyed reading the book and that he had said some nice things about it - but more than that, we were simply gob-smacked that he took the time and trouble to ring me with his comments.

Tony Benn is 80 years of age and suffered a fall at the recent Labour Party Conference resulting in a head injury. He explained this had resulted in cutting back on his working schedule and postponing 43 ...yes 43 speaking engagements before Christmas.

Not bad for an 80 year old aye?

Mr Benn spoke to both Annie and I and he seemed as interested in us as we clearly were in him. We hope to meet him one day in the New Year at a speaking engagement when he is back on the road.

This was another powerful illustration to me of how someone can rise to almost the pinnacle of British politics and yet remain as approachable and 'grounded' as anyone I have ever met in my life.

No pretentiousness - no arrogance - no conceit - just good manners, dignity, respect and humility. A real gentleman.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

What is 'Typically English?'

The famous New Zealand Haka dance that is performed by the All Blacks Rugby Team before every match is meant to fire up the New Zealand players to fight to the end for their country. It is also meant to intimidate the opposition. This is a picture of the New Zealand team before a match against England. Pretty scary I would say.
I have decided to put forward that we English should do something similar.

We need a dance that typifies the fighting English bulldog spirit and terrifies the opposition …

So here we are .. This is a picture of English Morris Dancers is bound to put the fear of God into any opposition don’t you think?

What to you is typically English?

Plan or have it 'Done To You'

Life offers two great gifts - time, and the ability to choose how we spend it. Planning is a process of choosing among those many options. If we do not choose to plan, then we choose to have others plan for us. - Richard I. Winword

Courtesy of Cynthia Kersey, Author of ''Unstoppable''

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

To fail is to learn

"We pay a heavy price for our fear of failure. It is a powerful obstacle to growth. It assures the progressive narrowing of the personality and prevents exploration and experimentation. There is no learning without some difficulty and fumbling. If you want to keep on learning, you must keep on risking failure - all your life." - John W. Gardner, Educator

A no-hoper?

Annie and I are in the middle of a 10 week ALPHA course and it is very enlightening. I would recommend the course. We are hearing some fascinating stories during the course, one of which I wanted to share on Simplicity Blog today.

It is about a single mother called Monica who had a troubled teenage son. He had gone astray badly in his life and had ended up in the wrong company. In a nutshell he was a ‘drop out’ and his behavior and morals left much to be desired. He was a ‘no-hoper’ in the eyes of most of the people who knew him.

Monica felt her only way of helping him - after she had tried all the traditional ways - was to pray that her son would find God. She prayed tirelessly for 9 years from when her son was aged 19 until at 28 years of age he did find God. He was later ordained and became a Bishop. He became Saint Augustine in 386 AD and has became known as a highly influential Christian thinker

There are many points to this story - not least there is always hope for anyone. You will draw your own conclusions

On the course we discussed the power of prayer. I am told by people far more educated than me about religion there are numerous practical examples of the power of praying. I have never been deeply religious and I know there are many who do not have a faith – and that is fine by the way.

It now feels like I am on a journey. I have something of a thirst for more knowledge. There is something called ‘co-incidence’ that can be used to explain away many things but when ‘co-incidences’ just keep on happening then perhaps we may wish to consider opening our minds to ‘other things’ going on.

This is a great educational journey for me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Sunday lunch does not have to be Roast Beef and Yorkshire pudding

In the words of my favourite band 'The Kinks' 'Lazing on a Sunday (ok 'Sunny') afternoon'. Great value buffet style Chinese meal, house Red excellent :-)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Bird Flu

I normally like to keep my Simplicity Blog up-beat and optimistic so forgive me if this one is a little more down-beat. I think however it is an important topic for all of us.

The news is coming thick and fast now about the threat of Bird Flu hitting the UK.

There are some alarming statistics being quoted as you can see from the quotes from Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health.

First of all it is alarming that 12000 people die every winter on average in the UK from ordinary flu! The worst case scenario appears to be up to 750000 deaths if the UK if Bird Flue becomes a Pandemic.

Scary stuff, and in my view, if the Chief Medical Officer goes on prime time BBC-TV to announce such figures quite openly than there must be worries in high places that this is more than just scare stories.

I think we need to watch very carefully as this story develops and make sure we protect our families - particularly those who are most vulnerable.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Westminster Cathedral (next door to Parliament) - My Dad aways said 'Red sky at night shepherds delight'

A visit to Parliament

Yesterday Annie and I went to the House of Commons!!

No - we have not been elected as MP’s – we are happy to remain normal thank you.

No - I had not been not summoned to appear before Parliament to explain my rants, outbursts and criticisms on this Blog of poor management in healthcare.

Seriously - We were there to help support Carers UK in their efforts to promote the needs of the millions of family carers in the UK. Carers are unpaid but their efforts keep this country’s health and social care services solvent by providing care for family members, friends and neighbours through a sense of love, obligation and duty – usually in that order.

The MP Hywel Francis, MP for Aberavon took the Carers Equal Opportuinities Act through Parliament this year and the event yesterday was to celebrate and launch the resource pack that all Local Authorities will be expected to adhere to in implementing the new Act. We were priveledged to be invited to the launch.

The Act means that Carers can expect equal opportunity in employment, education and healthcare and it marks yet another major milestone in raising awareness about the needs of Carers who otherwise just carry on without being acknowledged or recognised.

I intend to regularly report about the progress to support Carers on my Simplicity Blog and I will continue to work with Carers UK to raise the profile of Carers.

The country owes Carers a great debt.

I hope you enjoy pictures below from our outing to the Commons – it was a horrible rainy day but the House of Commons is an awesome sight – such fantastic architecture and such history as you walk through the corridors imagining the great political characters that trod those same corridors.

I intended to leave a copy of my book with Elizabeth and Philip here at Buckingham Palace but sadly no one replied to my knock on the door. They must get fed up too I suppose with double glazing sales people.
Me outside Parliament pretending to look busy!
Annie meets Guy Fawkes!
Dr Hywel Francis MP and Imelda Redmond, Chief Executive Carers UK
Big Ben - a wonderful landmark next door to the Commons - a very dull overcast day - no sunshine I am afraid.

This is just to prove management consultants do actually work outside 9-5!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Thank You Annie

"You have to find something that you love enough to be able to take risks, jump over the hurdles and break through the brick walls that are always going to be placed in front of you. If you don't have that kind of feeling for what it is you are doing, you'll stop at the first giant hurdle." - George Lucas

Annie has been the inspiration for me to take risks; leap hurdles; and break through brickwalls in the last 18 months - more than anyone will ever know.

I love you hun - thank you x

Critcism is a two way street

On Sunday evening Annie and I went to listen to Clare Short discussing her new book. It was an event that is part of the Birmingham Book Festival. Her book is called “An Honourable Deception” and is about the political issues surrounding the Iraq War.

Clare Short is an interesting politician who has always been a rebel in the Labour Party. She is outspoken and she resigned her Ministerial position over the Iraq war. I admire people immensely who feel so strongly and I wish more politicians had her convictions and acted accordingly in resigning.

She is critical of the motives for war of both British and American leaders. We did not buy the book but the evidence she talks about lies in high places sounded pretty compelling.


The main thing that put us off buying her book was the way she reacted so aggressively to someone who asked her what, to us, seemed a reasonable question.

I think it is great that people have strong views and that we can all express those extreme views in our society. It is even OK in my book that leaders in politics can be personally criticised and Clare Short was indeed very critical of Tony Blair.

When she is then criticised it is only fair she takes it on the chin rather than reacting aggressively in my opinion. In other words 'people in glass houses should not throw stones.'

I am sure the book is a good read and I am also pretty sure she is technically correct about many of the things she says. On a human level I wish she could accept criticism a little more graciously – the aggressive reaction does her no favours whatsoever.

She was also critical of the close relationship between Britain and America and suggested the two countries are too close. I can see what she means and I know there are many people in Britain who agree with her about that. I don’t.

My view is pragmatic. I want to be on the side of America. Britain is a small country that one day may need America in my opinion. We have desperately needed America in our past and we should remember that.

My position on America and Britain is best summed by the quote of former US President Lyndon B. Johnson.

“It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.”

Please excuse the swearing – Johnson’s words not mine – I just agree with the sentiment.

Clare Short

Monday, October 10, 2005

"If you die a penny in debt you made a proft"

I wish I could remember who said this - I think it may have been Groucho Marx - it certainly sounds like a Groucho quote don't you think?

Anyone know?

Groucho Marx

Football is not a matter of life and death - it is far more important than that!

Before I start getting complaints my Blog is turning into a Football (Soccer) Blog let me say it is only temporary – I promise!!!

What with a visit to the Theatre of Dreams and then England qualifying for the World Cup it is a bit like buses – you wait for ages to see one and then two come along at the same time.

Normal service will be resumed tomorrow – but hey – it is good fun to have a little light relief anyway surely

Frank Lampard scores from the penalty spot last Saturday at Old Trafford to take England to the World Cup Finals in 2006

England on a roll - so why do fans want Sven sacked??!!!

Great news over the weekend is that England has qualified to play in the soccer World Cup Final tournament next summer in Germany.

If they beat Poland on Wednesday night England will win their qualifying group having lost just one match. At the same the other three home countries – Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland did not qualify.

So how come there is still such a clamor for the resignation of the England manager Sven Goran Eriksson?

It amazes me. The man has lost only three competitive matches since he became England’s manager three or four years ago and yet many football fans are calling for him to be dismissed.

If England goes onto win the World Cup in 2006 - which is a real possibility – then I wonder what those same people will be saying about Sven.

I suspect that the reasons he is not popular are nothing at all to do with his ability as a football coach but more to do with his ‘off field’ antics and maybe even the simple fact that he is not an Englishman.

But then I do see things simplistically!

Friday, October 07, 2005

This was work???!!!!

I was doing some work on Wednesday and the venue was – Old Trafford, ‘Theatre of Dreams’ – home of my beloved Manchester United Football Club.

There are a few pictures below.

The stadium is incredible. I was talking to one of the staff and he told me the stadium upgrade happening now will mean there will be 75000 seating capacity – just awesome!

The conference suites are majestic. I just had to keep pinching myself to remind myself this was a day at work

Up the Reds!!!

The Memorial

This is the famous memorial plaque at Old Trafford to remember the deaths of so many young players in the Munich air crash in 1958

The Theatre of Dreams - Old Trafford

View from the all seater Stretford End where I stood many years ago to watch George Best, Bobby Chalrton and Dennis Law ...ahh memories

Welcome to the Theatre of Dreams

The United club crest that is known the world over

They will never be forgotten

A permanent reminder of the Munich air crash that robbed us of so many young players - the lowest point in the glorious history of Manchester United

Still looking for improvement

Sir Alex - the greatest leader and manager ever in the history of British football. 62 years of age and still looking for improvement. He is the Boss!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Exercise and Live Longer?

In the news today is research from Sweden suggesting exercise in middle age significantly reduces the chances of people suffering dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The study also suggests exercise prevents high blood pressure and the reduced likelihood of Diabetes.

We all know it makes sense to keep physically fit throughout our lives.

Both Annie and I were smokers until early 2004. We decided to make a big effort to keep fit and do regular exercise. The money we spent on cigarettes was far in excess of our combined monthly subscriptions fees for our gym.

Of course there is never an absolute guarantee of long life and all we can do is to work to improve the odds of living a long and relatively healthy life. We both feel exercise has now become such an integral part of our lives – without being obsessive about it – that we now cannot imagine a week going by when we do not visit our gym at least twice as well as running 5 km at least twice a week.

Unless you are blind or in denial, you can see an increasing incidence of obesity in our population, particularly among the younger generation. You rarely see very old people who are obese or smokers – my own, perhaps cynical view, is that the obese and the smokers have already died!

It surely makes sense to place more emphasis on promoting exercise to our young people to prevent problems that otherwise await them in middle and older age.

Yes it may sound boring and yes it may sound a little bit like ‘nanny state’ but the great news is that exercise can be fun; something you look forward to; and something you miss when you do not do it. Everyone of course has an individual choice about this and the freedom to make choices is something I advocate strongly and defend strongly.

We have made a conscious decision to work to improve the odds.

Persistance always pays dividends

As I have written elsewhere on numerous occasions I do not believe there are such people as 'overnight successes.' I love this quote;

"Your decision to be, have and do something out of the ordinary entails facing difficulties that are out of the ordinary as well. Sometimes your greatest asset is simply your ability to stay with it longer than anyone else." - Brian Tracy

Sunday, October 02, 2005

A wonderful Sunday

What a fabulous day today.

This morning I played the third football match of my comeback and we got our first win by 2 goals to 1. Then this evening Annie read (wonderfully) three pieces at the Harvest Festival service at our church.

We feel like we have earned some sleep after a particularly hectic week which has seen us travel over 500 miles in the car to deliver three workshops and all the time Annie was really under the weather suffering from a head cold and throat infection.

We are hoping some semblance of normality will return over the next couple of weeks.