A week of goodbyes
The last week was dominated by not one, but two funerals – unusual, unless you’re an undertaker, right?
They couldn’t have been more different. One for a tour-de-force, tattooed hero and icon, taken too early. Soho came to a standstill for her send-off and I think there are still a few revellers eking out the wake in The Ship. See you on t’other side, Cherie. The second, for a friend’s father, was more distant but equally intense: an intimate ceremony in the cavernous architectural stunner that is Coventry Cathedral, with emotional speeches and song.
A complete loss
The dissertation finally got submitted and so the post-study reflection begins in earnest whilst I await the result which should come in December. I’m feeling a strange mix of relief and, oddly, something akin to loss? I’ve heard of graduate blues before, but was honestly not expecting them after a part-time degree – and so I am unprepared for their effects. I’m not experiencing anxiety due to an absence of work (as is often a contributory factor) – in fact, the last part of the MBA has been pivotal in securing a decent pipeline of work. So perhaps the absence of a distant goal to strive towards is triggering this feeling? I need to keep revisiting this. In the meantime, I’m looking up some other distinctly different learning activities to pick up, starting with (hopefully) jazz piano lessons.
This week: shifting the inevitable stress cold, a bit of work, catching up with barbershop arrangements, and getting ready for a break next week. And hopefully a fair bit of sleep.
Life feels a bit a bit dramatic right now, like a penultimate episode of a multi-season drama.
In the world: Trump impeachment. Hong Kong riots. Extinction Rebellion ramping up. Brexit crunch weeks.
In life: sideways rain, giant end-of MBA deadline, the aftermath of loss, a lot of lost sleep and diary backflips.
But there’s a lot to be thankful for. The chance to study and reflect deeply. Singing on a Sunday. A solid work pipeline. A break from the intensity on the horizon. Health holding out (just). A trip to the local theatre for a double bill: the breathtaking Sound Cistem and A Haunted Existence, both sharing stories deserving of bigger stages.
Life and death this week. A new nephew, L, and a passing of an acquaintance. Both making quite an impact on the mental capacity and time-space continuum. L’s favourite pastimes are wriggling and hiccuping.
Sleep-deprived, work and study continue. The final push on the dissertation has begun and the end of the tunnel approaches rather quickly with its blinding light bringing everything into sharp (and sometimes too sharp) focus. The writing continues in earnest, accompanied by a soundtrack of albums I was listening to when completing my first dissertation in early 2005 (who knew last.fm went back that far): Bjork’s Vespertine, Nitin Sawhney’s Beyond Skin – and more to come this week.
Work-wise: Britten begins in earnest again in November and the first light week in a few months beckons with just a little Mozart to cover off. Copland and Sibelius proposals out, and if there’s time this week a little bit of branding and marketing development will get underway. Time for the consultancy to grow up a bit.
Hardly any leisure funs but did sneak out to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the basement of Ally Pally which was lighthearted fun although I’m not sure the space and the import of the place added anything in particular to the performance of a play that, shockingly, I’d never seen. I’m now making it my mission to fill in the Shakespeare gap in my life.
Going in reverse this week.
- A solid couple of days work on the dissertation – grounded analysis of interviews and first draft of the introductory sections. This will be the mainstay of my life for the next 18 days.
- Saw an incredible one-person play, A Generous Lover, at the Camden People’s Theatre by La John Joseph. A real triumph of humour, storytelling, sound design and music. A must-see. Which also reminded me to work harder to beg/steal/borrow tickets for Burgerz again at Southbank Centre)
- Spending a lot of time looking at rehearsal planning, warm-up techniques and the like for the Barberfellas. Five new songs to learn in the coming months (three of which I need to arrange)
- Four days working at Mozart and one at Britten this week, plus a call with Sibelius and a draft proposal for Copland.
- I’ve rejoined the Pink Singers this season and, well, it doesn’t half make me glad. Short rehearsal on Sunday and a lovely cycle in the autumn sunshine were both extremely restorative.
- Restarted a fitness programme although so far I’ve not managed to make it to the gym because there’s so much on. Food habits are beginning to change again. Will hopefully get a couple of short sessions in this weekend. Needs must.
Initial engagement with Britten is wrapping up with a view to a bit more down the line, so I’m tying string around the packages I’ve left here and reflecting on what I’ve learned from this new type of endeavour. It’s a great team to work with, but it lives inside a large, complex organisation with some fundamental challenges in how it communicates its strategy; with quite siloed development and delivery teams. It’s exciting to see new ideas I’ve implemented take root to tackle some of these anti-patterns of good working practice. Time will tell if they are successful but already seeing some positive signs.
First-time visitors from California to London staying this week, C & T. Wisely we held off planning anything too strenuous for the first couple of days as they were both entirely jet lagged after two days spent with family en-route in Ireland.
Conducted my final interviews for the dissertation this week – and had some useful reflective conversations by chance with some burner friends which really helped me concrete the arc of the narrative. I didn’t expect inspiration to come from post-dinner chat but this serves as further proof that bouncing ideas off others is the way forward.
Late weeknotes, from Spain.
Had a birthday – with a giant cake, lots of amazing music, friends and sweltering temperatures.
Perhaps it’s the back-to-school time of year but the inbox has been busy to put it mildly in the last couple of weeks. A proposed continuation with Britten, a reignited lead in Copland and a go-ahead with an old proposal for Sibelius. And a bit of forward planning for sessions with Mozart in a couple of weeks. Now to plot all the leads onto the calendar.
Interviews for my MBA have made me realised how little I communicate what’s happening with my business, and the sort of work I’m after, to my network. This is pretty fundamental to entrepreneurs so something I can swiftly improve on – once the study is complete…
Big focus of this week. I now have a dissertation document underway and a skeleton of what I need to include in it. My last research interviews are wrapping up this week and early next. I’ve learned an awful lot in the process of them and the process of sense-making and trying out new things is ongoing. Drafting continues over this week and next, ramping up big time in late September.
Enjoyed a couple of days spent exploring Valencia and now eating lovely food, writing and sleeping near Javea. There are lots of croquetas. I also went for my first run in about three years (of approximately 5k). The exercise I’ve been doing over the summer means this wasn’t aerobically a challenge and, crucially, I did not experience substantial plantar fascia pain which is a very exciting development. I may try another, carefully, to see if this was a fluke.
Politics continues to be entirely chaotic and I can’t really keep my eye off it. General election in October/November? Oof.
A very full week with Britten, with a heavy focus on roadmap building, and nurturing cross-team community.
Around this I’ve been sneaking in research interviews for the MBA – these have been fairly instructive so far and my reflections on them have already flowed to many pages. Much more to do here over the coming couple of weeks, before getting into dissertation writing mode in earnest in mid September.
At the weekend, a visit to Cardiff for the biennial Hand in Hand LGBT+ choral festival. The Pink Singers organised the first of these back in 2013 (and I was privileged to help with the organisation). It’s grown in stature considerably since – growing from 400 singers back then to 1,000 now, and representation from over 30 choirs from all around the UK and Ireland.
For me it was a reminder of the impact that these positive queer communities can have (even the BBC took notice). Each choir grows from strength to strength each year, amassing new members and taking on more ambitious and varied performance opportunities. This can only be a good thing for acceptance in society more generally and it’s great to be a small part of it.
These are hectic times indeed. Every minute of the diary is allocated until October 9th (final submission date for masters) so weeknotes might be a little more brief until then.
Plenty going on between Britten and Mozart – lots of context switching, multi-tasking and the potential for longer-term initiatives. Thinking a lot about roadmaps and prioritisation in non-commercial settings and for service teams. Thinking about how to organise innovation work. Reflecting on how great communities come about in large teams. Lots of good stuff.
Lots here too. Attended my (hopefully) final tutorial day, which focussed on the final assessment for the course, and got underway with research interviews which have proved more enlightening than I could have hoped for on a couple of levels. These will continue through August before I start writing up in earnest.
Spent about 36 hours of family time in Wales (despite the unseasonal August wind and rain), a glorious two hours with this podcast about one of my favourite art groups, the Flaming Lotus Girls, and lovely catch up with former work folks Vic and Chris for a reminisce about old (work) times, plotting future adventures, reflecting on loss. Good for the soul.
Late weeknotes: every spare minute is full right now – must try and make sure time is spared for this in the coming seven or eight weeks.
I’m at capacity for the next few weeks between Britten and Mozart. Good progress happening with both – but culturally couldn’t be more different. Making context switching very, very interesting.
Snuck a few days at the Edinburgh festival seeing amazingly talented friends Scottee, Harry, Ginger, Jayde, Travis all producing wonderfully powerful work that left us speechless. Also saw some stand-up, glee-style radness, and got to gad around Edinburgh in mostly sunshine (unusual) and eat incredible food lovingly cooked by Pino and Peter, and longed after by Daisy dawg. A little spa session was well-timed, and some bao and gyoza at Lucky Yu were a culinary treat. Next year I want to go for a week.
A really hectic but fun week:
- I’m three quarters through a 10-week programme of exercise / sensible eating to lose 4kg. More on this sometime in the future, but so far I’ve lost 3kg so I’m pretty happy with how it’s going, and I’ve got way more energy. Mostly writing this for future reference: this stuff is not rocket science and it works.
- Started in earnest working with Britten: getting to know the lay of the land. One of the more complex set of stakeholder relationships to unpick and figure out, but it’s a fun challenge.
- Shenanigans renewing my British Library readers’ pass, followed by a lot of reading on research ethics and approaches, and designing a programme of interviews & surveys that I’ll be running in the coming weeks for my masters dissertation
- Babysitting in a heatwave, which involved painting, naps, and playgrounds where the slides were a bit too hot to go on
- Cycling around when it is simultaneously 37 degrees and thundering. Drenched midway, dry by the time I got home. WTF, London?
- Watching politics move from dumb to dumber
- Finally got to see Mag in the City Academy singers’ concert, Human. They are a great group, led by impressive and charismatic conductor and arranger Eamonn O’Dwyer
- A quite special fundraising gig with the Barberfellas in support of ELOP at Waltham Forest Pride at the very friendly Wild Card brewery. Lots of great other queer acts and friends were performing, including Belt Up, Sophie of Colours and Sparks and Iron and Sparks. Technical reflections on the performance: having a really good mic setup and good foldback really helped us achieve solid intonation and blending despite being slightly unbalanced (3 basses / 1 bari / 2 leads / 2 tenors).
AND, the courgettes are starting to be harvested. They look like triffids. Tasty, tasty triffids.