There were a record number of views of my blog last week. I don’t know the reason why, but I was very pleased albeit just a little surprised. My Dad often asks me who it is I write my blog for. He's getting into his silver age so can be forgiven for forgetting my answer, but it is a good question. I tend to write for myself, like doing the Times Crossword, and I just like to write. I don’t do polemic so much these days, unlike those blogs written by the Gilded Lily. I think that kind of blog is ultimately unproductive. And whilst I am sure the number of readers he has is much greater than me, as they say, size isn't everything.
Whilst I have also been accused of blogging about the poor service I have received from restaurants, hotels and airlines I feel slightly more justified in doing so in that these are services are I'm paying for directly and being a customer in such circumstances is different to being a consumer of health and social care services. But in any event, this week I wanted to write a different kind of blog, one where I can take the opportunity of acknowledging those who last week made a difference to my world.
My colleague Andrew, and frequent traveller to Abu Dhabi, knowing that I was off to the city last weekend whispered the magic words 'Club Rotana' into my ear. Now out in the UAE the Rotana hotel group is the kind of ubiquitous Holiday Inn level chain accommodation, comfortable but nothing particularly special. However 'Club Rotana' was described to me as the hidden gem. So in for a penny, in for pound, last weekend when I was staying in Abu Dhabi I thought I would give 'Club Rotana' a go.
Now before any of those of you who like to send me FOI requests, there was no additional charge for using 'Club Rotana' but it does need to be booked in advance. The accommodation was fantastic, located on the 9th floor with corner window views over Abu Dhabi. There was a state of the art control system, lights, air conditioning, TV, room service. It was magnificent. The shampoos, soaps, mouth wash were all 'l’Occitane', the towels were as soft as a baby's skin, and the fruit replaced fresh everyday.
The rooms come with their own dining room and lounge facilities. Queen of the afternoon/evening shift was Zineb. I met Zineb when stepping out of the lift on the way to my room for the first time, she looked up from her desk and said 'hello Professor Tony'. Now these days wherever I travel in the world I have become used to putting my card into an ATM and the machine saying 'Hello Tony', but stepping out of a lift in Abu Dhabi and having someone greeting me by name was just down right spooky!
Zineb turned out to be an absolute Godsend (sorry Mother), and I said I would mention her in this week's blog – you made my stay really easy and hugely pleasant. Zineb hails from Morocco, and there was another lady, Sandra, who also made my weekend in Abu Dhabi a good one, but who hailed from a very different place, Germany.
Sandra is our new Project Director for the criminal justice system project we have out there, and she was just starting her third week in role. I was there for the monthly Project Board Meeting, and it was a very productive one. Sandra led on the progress with Work Stage 3 – the 'training the trainers' programme. This is pivotal stage of the programme and the news of progress to date was very encouraging. It really felt like we were working as a partnership with colleagues out there and making progress at achieving real change in how the juvenile justice system was better able to work with young people and their families.
Although my time in Abu Dhabi tends to be very short in terms of days, each day can be very long. For me last Sunday, the first day of the Arabic working week, started at 05.00 and ended at midnight. It wasn't all meetings of course. I spent some time last Sunday working on a book chapter drafted by my long term writing partner Sue Mc. Sue is a very generous co-author and had spent considerable time crafting the first version of a chapter we are submitting for a commissioned book. She had sent me away with strict instructions to work on her first draft. Something I was happy to do, not that it needed much changing.
And generosity has been the golden thread throughout last week. There have been 2 more heroes in my world, who during a period of my contemplating change have stepped up to the mark and have unhesitatingly been there for me. Thank you Ged and June. Watch this space – let’s see where the ambition takes us!
Best of all, for the first time in a long time, I have finally managed to spend a week away from work and alone with my dear wife Wendy - she is patience personified. Having missed being together for our wedding anniversary this year and Wendy’s birthday because I was too busy working, some might wonder how I even have both hands left in place to be able to write this blog. Last week has been wonderfully slowed down, highly relaxing and rejuvenating. And apart from bumping into my colleague Sarah R on the sea front last Friday afternoon, it has also been completely University of Salford free! Last week has seen a magnificent 7 come to the fore, and for completely different reasons - so Andrew, Zineb, Sandra, Sue, Ged, June and Wendy thank you – and I don't even have to go back to work until Tuesday!