Sunday, 18 September 2011

Kilts, Saris, a Jacob's Feast, and Conversations

Last Sunday I attended a Scottish/Asian wedding held in the Ashton Memorial located at the highest point in Williamson Park in Lancaster. The folly is visible for miles around, and most people will have seen it from the motorway on their way to the Lakes or Scotland. The day was bitterly cold with strong winds and lashing rain. The under floor hot air heating kept the space warm and the Indian spicy food warmed people up from the inside.

All the men wore kilts and the women saris, which made for a colorful, noisy and wonderfully cosmopolitan gathering. The conversations around the room with people known and new were often fascinating and always great fun.

Monday I took part in a Readership/Professorial interview at the University of Bedford. It is always a great privilege to be part of such events. You get to hear all the issues (good and bad) that colleagues from a different University are dealing with, and of course you get to have conversations with the candidates. On this occasion one of the candidates was from Maastricht University, famous for its approach to internationalism and of course, Problem Based Learning. It was fantastic to hear about both these activities during the interview process. I came away with some great ideas for our School to consider, and these ideas made the three hour drive there (and three hours back) worthwhile!

Tuesday saw the first of our new College Research and Innovation Committee meetings. New faces, new agenda and the first conversations with some of new our colleagues joining the College as part of the University Transformational Programme. Wednesday’s work included an afternoon spent at Senate – and conversations around ourTeaching and Learning, Research and Innovation, and Engagement and Partnership strategies.

Thursday was my granddaughter Evie’s 4th birthday and it was delightful to be able to talk to her and hear just how exciting her day had been. I also had the discharge conversation with my nursing colleagues at the Clinic. And later on that evening the phone rang, and it was a colleague from Australia. He and I were at opposite ends of the day, and whilst he had sunshine and light, I had darkness, rain and high winds to contend with. It was an interesting conversation nevertheless.

Friday was the first Development Day for the new School. I am not sure standing in front of 240 colleagues from the School presenting my analysis of the external and internal environment and the changes we need to address really counts as a conversation, but it was a fabulous start to what turned out to be a creative, productive and fun day. Next up, colleagues worked in small groups to develop a sense of the kind of School they wanted to work in and what as a new School, we need to do as ensure we can successfully create this. The work continued as the groups turned to addressing some specific issues around enhancing the student experience, and developing our research activities.

Lunch was a Jacobs’s Feast and it was a veritable self created banquet – we also tried out the refreshed University catering offering and this got positive reviews from everyone. We had an extended lunch break and it was great to listen to the conversations going on the rooms and corridors, often between colleagues who were meeting each other for the first time. The day ended with a plenary session at which the group work outcomes were presented. I don’t know whether it was Friday, or that colleagues felt relaxed, but the presentations were thought provoking and at the same time the mood in the room was jubilant. Great fun was had by all. The last couple of hours of the afternoon passed quickly, easily and very enjoyably.

Friday ended with a meal out with my Magistrate friends. We have been together as group of Magistrates for nearly 20 years. As always, the dinner table conversations were rich with tales of our collective experiences of sitting in Court over those years, and of course, ambitions achieved and those that didn’t quite come off.

It has been a week of interesting, rewarding and sometimes challenging conversations. However, due to my not being particularly thoughtful, I made it impossible to have a conversation with the one person I really needed to talk to this week. Sadly, as the week has gone on the silence has stretched out between us.

Clearly I need to more carefully reflect and act upon the advice of  Mahatma Gandhi’s - happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do, are in harmony. Today is the start of a new week, with hopefully plenty of new opportunities to work towards achieving such a state of harmony.