Sunday, 8 May 2016

There is a First Time for Everything: Including a First Blog Posting

Life is for living and I have not yet lost my desire for new time experiences. I was able to add to my collection of firsts last week. After W's disappointment over the Edinburgh Dyson hairdryer-gate we landed at the 18th century country mansion, Dunnikier House hotel in Kirkcaldy, Fife. The following day we were to do the Elie Chain Walk. This is a short walk (just a couple of hours) along the cliff face – but can only be done when the tide is out. The walk is made possible through the use of stainless chains bolted into the cliff face at a number of points along the walk. These allow the walker to climb or descend vertical sections and traverse other sections. It was exhilarating and such a great way to spend a hot and sunny bank holiday Monday with friends.

Unfortunately, Tuesday meant a drive back to Manchester, and jumping on the early morning plane bound for Abu Dhabi. The project the University has there is in good shape and colleagues were really making a difference to the lives and wellbeing of the young people placed in the young offenders centre. The visit coincided with the Al Israa wal Miraj public holiday. Unlike the British equivalent, this holiday was tacked on to the end of the working week. It wasn’t a problem for the visit but no alcohol was sold in the 24 hours leading up to the holiday. Strangely the 24 hours was not the 24 hours immediately before the holiday, which was just as well as there was a bit of a football match in the hotel bar big screen, and for the first time in my life I spent an evening watching football – Real Madrid versus Manchester City. But it was an interesting, albeit, a very noisy experience.

The visit to Abu Dhabi was to resolve some contractual problems and on the last day I had a meeting on the roof terrace of the Viceroy hotel. Ascetically and architecturally, it is a marvel, day and night. Part of the hotel straddles the Formula 1 race track, and at times the conversation was made slightly more difficult because of the racing cars roaring around the track – but it was another first. I was also able, for the first time visit our University office in the city centre, a circular tower building that was all glass, and stainless steel. Thanks to Graeme for his superb hospitality and access to communication technology expertise and facilities.

Technology was an important feature in last week's work, and the pace of change in what is now possible never ceases to amaze me. It enables ideas to be shared, for time zones to be transcended and conversations to take place where before they simply wouldn’t have been possible. There was even wi-fi available on the plane, although I couldn't get it to work, I am sure it will soon mean business will get done 24 hours a day where you happen to be, even if that happens to be 40,000 feet up in the sky. But it was good to be able to keep in touch, although as the visit to the project demonstrates, at times it's important to make sure you can still have face 2 face conversations.

Friday, saw a return to the UK, then a drive up to the House in Scotland. It is always good to get back home, and to get grounded once again. Monday is the start of a new working week, with a new set of challenges to face and opportunities to explore. But right now, this is the last time I am going to make use of technology until I'm sitting at my desk on Monday morning – the heat in Abu Dhabi was intense, here the day promises to be a more familiar British Spring Day and it will be good to get outside with Cello and stretch my legs. 

Having said that however, my shout out this week is to a lady called Judith. I have never met her and only know her through Twitter conversations and re-tweets. Last week I could feel for her as she tweeted her frustration and not being able to get her blog together sufficiently to post - and hadn't been able to do so for 5 weekends on the trot. But yesterday came a confirmation tweet to say the draft of her post had been completed! As I’m looking forward to reading it, I may just keep my phone on after all - as Lily Bobtail might say, 'just in case!'