Sunday, 11 January 2015

Departures, True Love, je suis Charlie, and that Operational Planning Challenge

I found the first week back after the Christmas break to be a real roller coast ride in lots of ways. The weather was all over the place, with high winds and driving rain one day and dry balmy mildness the next. It’s still that stage of the year where it’s dark when I leave for work and dark again when I come home. Monday saw me having dinner at Albert’s Shed. The food was the usual high standard, but unusually it was quiet enough to have a conversation without the need to shout at each other across the table.

I was with the Greater Manchester health Deans and Heads of School. We were saying goodbye to 2 of our colleagues, Ian Jacobs (moving on to a VC's role in Australia) and Vince Ramprogus, who was retiring. It was good to be able to celebrate our time together and wish them well for their futures. It was also Day 1 of our Operational Planning Challenge – 3 years of ambitions on just 3 sides of A4.

Tuesday, I read of the death of Irene Jorden. I never met Irene or her husband who had died the week before. But like many people, I had heard of them both. And their story warmed my heart last year. Bernard Jorden had wanted to be part of the 70th D-Day commemorations in France last June. Despite the best efforts of the staff who looked after him and his wife at their nursing home, arranging a trip proved impossible. Not to be deterred he took himself off and made the trip without telling anyone, sparking a huge manhunt for him.

Last year’s D-Day commemorations were particularly poignant as it was possibly the last time the remaining veterans, most now in their late 80s and 90 will gather together to recall the day that 'changed the world'. Bernard was 90 when he died and his wife 88, they had been married for over 50 years, and were said to still be 'truly in love with each other'. Research suggests that there is a 66% chance that a spouse will die within 3 months of their partner dying.

France was also in the news last week for other events, and events that have also been said to have changed the world. On Wednesday, 2 Islamic terrorists attacked and killed 11 journalists at the offices of the sartorial magazine Charlie Hebdo they also killed a community policemen. By Friday 17 innocent people had been killed along with the 3 terrorists. As the opinion pendulum has swung this week between security and freedom in the narratives of many commentators, I found the 'je suis Charlie' to be an immensely powerful yet simple statement to identify with. 

However, back in Salford, early Friday morning saw the Associate Heads of School and I meeting for one more sense check of Version 6 of Operational Plan Statement. It wasn't a very long meeting as the work had largely been done. I think the final result effectively captures our aspirations, our responses to the challenges and opportunities facing us as a School. What pleased me more than anything was that the finished plan was delivered at 09.30 rather than the more usual getting to 16.59 before I can press the send button. Many thanks to all my colleagues for making it happen! As I sit and write this post the wind has died down just a little, and the rain stopped. Thankfully for once, I am speaking meteorologically and not metaphorically!