Last week's travel included Scotland, Manchester, London and Prague. It was a full on week, productive, poignant and pleasurable. Increasingly these days I find leaving the House in Scotland at the end of the weekend a real wrench. But with 5 children, 9 grandchildren, a dog and parrot needs must, and there are still 865 days left until 31st Jan 2019. That equates to 74,736,000 seconds, which by the time you have finished reading this blog will be reduced by a further 414 seconds. If you are reading this on Dave, I may have already retired.
Well Manchester was of course a day at the University, which was a very productive day. The ICZ Business Case referred to in last week's blog had reached a stage of maturity where it was possible to be able to start writing the Executive Summary. Whilst the process of co-creation and co-production has provided some very rich narrative and innovative ideas, it’s also a process that is quite difficult to lead. Fortunately, I am blessed in working alongside the 'Jen and Rachel' team. Although they consistently make what we do look so effortlessly easy, their sheer hard work is much appreciated!
Tuesday I was down in London and attending the regular NMC Thought Leaders Group. The discussion was successful and progress continues to be made on the development of new standards for the education and preparation of future graduate nurses. The only blight on the day were the problems caused by a huge storm over the North West of England which resulted in long delays. So my train journey back to Manchester took nearly 6 hours rather than the normal 2 hours! Unfortunately, Virgin trains also ran out of G&T after hour 3.
Wednesday to Friday was spent in Prague at the 5th European Conference on Mental Health. I have supported this conference since its inception in 2010, when the conference was held in Helsinki. Prague is one of my favourite cities and I have visited many times. As well as presenting a couple of papers I also chaired one of the concurrent sessions. It was entitled Sexuality and Mental Health and whilst all the papers presented were interesting it was the last one that really caught my attention. It was entitled: Old and Sexy; Nurses knowledge and attitudes as possible mediating factors on the mental health of sexually active Home Care residents.
No it wasn’t about Rod Stewart, as in Do you think I’m [old and] sexy, which lots of folk do, it was a paper about the dilemmas in reconciling individual choice and desire in older age with societal norms and expectations. The presenter succinctly and humorously illustrated these dilemmas in the notion of there being no 69 after 69. The paper recognised that the response of care givers to these often complex issues can be difficult, and made more so where someone living with dementia is being cared for in a residential care setting.
The conference was jam packed with really good papers and presentations. One of the key note presentations was by Arman Alizad, an Iranian-Finnish master tailor, fashion columnist and TV personality. He was a larger than life character who was passionate about confronting stigma and discrimination, poverty and abuse head on. His passion has taken him all over the world and the films he makes of these encounters are currently being shown in over 100 countries around the world. His talk was illustrated with stories of how young women triumphed in the very closed and male dominated society that is the Eagle Hunters of Mongolia; how street children in Cambodia were given the freedom brought about by education; and how it was possible to free young people from the life shortening prison gangs of Manila.
It was a fascinating and poignant collection of stories and collectively they had resulted in Arman's comforting and familiar black and white view of the world being replaced by a challenging greyness in his understanding of why people behave in the way they do. If I had wanted to see a really good example of unconditional positive regard in action I couldn’t have chosen a better way to do so. If you haven't seen any of his work Google him and be prepared to have your sense of the world challenged!
The conference was organised around 2 long days. Unfortunately there was very little time for sight-seeing in what has to be one of the most romantic and evocative cities in the world. However, the conference dinner was held in a the beautiful 17th century Baroque Palace in the heart of Prague Old Town, now converted into a luxurious hotel (bed and breakfast EUR 450). Dinner was outside in the hotels beautiful gardens and the food and company was excellent. What also caught my eye was the precision serving of food to the table and the removal of plates and so on after each course was finished. A small team would approach the table and on the nod of the team leader every plate would be placed on the table in a synchronised silent movement, they would take a step to the left and serve the remaining guests in a similar fashion.
Later today I am off to a local Manchester hostelry, where unlike the Prague hotel, as far as I know Madonna and Beyoncé haven’t stayed, and where I don’t expect there will be precision serving of the food or food of the same quality. What I am assured of though is the company will be superb. One of my wonderful grandchildren, Evie, who was 9 last week, is celebrating her birthday and I am absolutely sure we will have a great time together!