Week notes: 20-26 November 2023

Craving "a normal working week”, re-engaging with UKGovcamp, don't call me Shirley.

Hello, hope you did something nice for your Black Friday celebrations.

Perhaps you bought everyone the gift of film with a discounted BFI Player subscription. (The new Android app I mentioned last week is live now, with lots more continuous improvement in the works).

Dashing this week’s note off a day early so I can do some work work on Sunday (building slides for a slot at BFI’s board of govs next week).

“A normal working week”

A colleague said on Monday “all I want is a normal working week!” and I totally got what he meant. We’ve been juggling a lot of change and admin overheads on top of busy ops and major projects.

Then I wondered what one would look like, for me. 

I reckon: steady state teams (neither forming nor storming), tolerable levels of unplanned work (we’re talking ‘normal week’ here not fantasy), and about a 30:70 ratio of routine tasks and meetings to time spent proactively pushing goals forward. How about you? 

Then again, if working in a bankrupt council taught me anything, it’s the noble truth that suffering is the result of craving for things to be other than they are. Some degree of rolling with the punches just is what it is (and too many samey weeks would get boring anyway). Nonetheless – I could relate.

Things that were not normal this week

I was in pain (and on codeine) for much of it, with crazy-bad tension in my shoulder and neck. It was distracting (and dissociative), but I pushed through.

On Wednesday there was a glorious sunrise – the featured image for this post. Caught it while heading out for a very good day of meetings on the Southbank. The novelty of my office being BFI Southbank is yet to wear off.

But the most unexpected thing I did this week was register for a ticket to UKGovcamp in January! (Thanks Tori for the tip-off). I’ve not been for about a decade, and my return to blogging is defo a factor. It’s making me more connected and up for networking – and vice versa, in a self-sustaining loop. 

Another factor is my now knowing I have aphantasia and SDAM. Looking back, I think I withdrew from conferences in general and Govcamp in particular with unnamed feelings of being “bad at these kinds of things”, uncaring about the community, and unable to contribute case studies. So I swore off it, in a grump basically. But now I know that struggling to remember who anyone is (or what I’ve done!) is just how I’m wired – not rudeness or disconnection. Ready to re-engage, share what I can and learn.

We did Dylan’s sixth form applications this week. It will come as a surprise to nobody that the admissions form is a usability nightmare. It’s exciting to think about the world opening up for him though, as he picks his path and finds his people.

A couple of things this week triggered some childhood movie memories for me:

  • There’s a new book out about the making of Airplane!, one of my earliest movie obsessions. The video library van which occasionally braved the bumpy lane to the farm I grew up on was my only (and earliest) access to film. I reckon I rented Airplane! and Airplaine II every time it came by.
Aged newspaper clipping. It reads "VIDEO - Can 10 million people be wrong?" and goes on to review Mrs Doubtfire VHS release.
Man doubts Doubtfire


Organisational debt. I like that.  

Good stuff from ex-GDS chum Stephen McCarthy on improving user research and experimentation in Which?’s product squads

Dave’s doing excellent work here with his Local Gov Digital Quality Model. What’s even better is how he’s sharing it early while he works on it. (Like Christina Wodtke and her potential new book)

Further to my confusion about newfangled gym equipment, I enjoyed this on the general ridiculousness of exercise machines through the years

How to bring Hollywood magic to HR. Filmmaking teams are analogous with startups and multidisciplinary agile teams in lots of ways.

How It’s Been. A random find via Indieblog. I don’t know Lucy, but love how she writes here, and really love the “saying no” stamp card! Her 100 Demon Dialogues cartoons are cool too.

Cut the intro is some good advice I will probably fail to follow.

My friend Laurie is blogging. Mostly about Sheffield.

Watching, reading, listening, playing 

Top film this week: When Evil Lurks, a pleasingly original Argentinian horror. (The bit immediately after this clip is a fantastic few minutes of film).

Able was I ‘ere I saw Ridley Scott’s Napoleon. It’s got cracking epic battle bits, cringeworthy lewd bits and ropey school play-esque bits, but the two very watchable leads carry you through and the money is all up on the screen. 3.5 out of 5 maybe. 

Finished reading Big Beacon by Alan Partridge. Even the index at the back is comedy genius. It’s been such a fun read, but I’m glad to get his voice out of my head and end the accidental Partridge torment! As if the recent lighthouse visit and memoir writing weren’t enough, I literally read a bit about Alan doing BODYPUMP classes the same day I’d just been to one. Still, I can’t get enough of this character and I’m hoping the refrain of “got to try standup” is leading to a future format where he does.


7 frames of film – daily film recognition quiz, similar to Framed.wtf 

Is it Christmas?

Synchronised cats and synthesised purrs

Thanks for reading, see you in December!

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