Saturday, 27 September 2008

AGI Geocommunity´08 (part 2)

Some of the delegates who attended the conference have written blogs. Not all were entirely complimentary, though the criticism was about content and not organisation.

Since I am the finance guy and not a geographer, I cannot really comment on content or direction of the conference. Except perhaps to say that with nearly 600 delegates, the content will not reflect everyone´s views on every occasion. And some of the quality of presentation was in my view a bit disappointing. But if the sessions have stimulated debate, then surely that is a good thing.

Yes the final session was a bit flat, and we will have to look at that for next year. How to conclude a conference on a high note is a difficult issue for us - especially as many delegates are keen to catch trains or to get home before dark. Keeping a buzz right up to the last minute is not easy.

From a personal viewpoint, I thought the conference went well. I had to come out of my confort zone as an accountant. I had to run the Icebreaker evening, attend a number of sessions, deliver the finance report and generally keep a profile that is a bit higher than I am used to. I was pleased at how well I acheived that.

I thought the AGI team and volunteers were exceptional. All took their responsibilities very seriously.

We will of course have a debrief. Next year we will strive to make the conference bigger and better. But to bring 600 delegates to Stratford, manage all of their arrangements, produce a conference of a high standard, and have many of them intending to return next year, is a considerable achievement.

I am happy with that as a reflection on the past three days.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

AGI Geocommunity´08

The conference is over. I have returned from Stratford upon Avon after the 2008 AGI Conference. I am exhausted, but very pleased with the way it went. A lot of people did a lot of work to make sure it went well.

The AGI Conference is always a bit strange for me, especially since my training is not in geography. It is a mixture of hard work and alcohol and not much sleep. And most of the work is different to what I am used to back in the office.

The work started on Tuesday when the team had to stuff a huge number of inserts into 600 delegate bags. My back hurt. Then in the evening came the pre-conference Icebreaker event. It´s the first time we have had one of these, and, scarily, I found myself volunteering to run it. I decided to run a dinner, a quiz and a theatrical event - Buffet, Brains and Bard.

So I found myself on stage leading a ´Very Spatial Quiz´. It was not long into this that I realised that I´d made the questions too difficult, but there was nothing I could do now. So on I went. I got particularly nervous over question 20 where I had to sing the question. But anyway I got through it and it didn´t go too badly.

Then came the Earl of Oxfords Men who did two performances from Shakespeare, one from Henry V and one from Midsummer Night´s Dream. The standard of acting was mixed but overall it was fine and delegates enjoyed both pieces.

Finally I gave the quiz answers and announced the winners. The winning team got 40 points out of a possible 60 which I guess shows how tought the quiz was.

Over the next two days I was heartened by the number of delegates who came up to me to tell me how much they´d enjoyed the evening.

Next day, feeling a bit groggy from the glasses of wine I´d had the previous night, I was room monitor in the Blenheim Room. No real difficulty there - just handing the microphone round during question sessions. At the AGI AGM, I then had to deliver the Finance report. The news was good, and although I do get nervous when delivering prepared reports, it went okay.

That evening I dressed up in a very spiky wig for the party which had an eighties theme. It was fun. And crucially, I did not drink too much and went to bed shortly after midnight.

Next day I resumed my room monitoring duties and, despite dozing off on a couple of occasions, got though them without incident.

And suddenly the conference was over. Tomorrow I will reflect a bit more about the conference. For today, I am just tapping into the positive remarks from delegates. I take my share of a collective pride in a job well done.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Where does the time go?

I was not working on Friday. I was not going anywhere over the weekend. I had a list of things to do and time to do them.

Therefore on Thursday evening, I was anticipating three days in which I could tackle some or all of the items in the 'to do' list.

So there was no need to make a start on Thursday. I could have a relaxing glass of wine and watch some television.

The weather was quite good on Friday, so I went up practice my golf. Which left me tired in the afternoon. And in the evening visited A for some dinner and to do the Amro management accounts..

I teed off at 6.57 on Saturday morning. Then we had a couple of pints. I checked my email for a couple of hours. Then I was off again to have dinner with A.

On Sunday morning I watched Andrew Marr and washed some clothes. Then we went to Sadlers Wells to see Matthew Bourne's 'Dorian Gray'. Dinner followed in Kings Cross. Train home and read the Sunday papers.

At about 11pm on Sunday evening I looked at my 'to do' list for the first time. But it was time for bed.

Maybe next weekend....

Saturday, 6 September 2008

60 Years Ago

Yesterday we visited the house where my father stayed when he first arrived in Crathie in 1948. We visited the top dam where my Mum used to swim as a child. We saw the location of the house in which she was born.

And it was today, exactly 60 years ago, when my Dad and Mum first met, in September 1948 at the Braemar Gathering. 60 years ago today. This evening I was looking at old photos and I found a photo taken on that very day of the group at the Braemar Gathering with my Mum at one end and my Dad at the other end. Then I read my Mum's diary of that very day 60 years ago, about her day at the Braemar gathering. It was all very poignant.

And now here we are, 60 years later. Reviewing the past, but living the present and looking to the future.

Friday, 5 September 2008

The Paths of Glory

I am up in Scotland and today we again went over to Crathie, this time to visit the churchyard and to visit the gravestone of my grandparents which had been cleaned up and now had my mother's name added.

It was very strange and slightly unsettling to see my mother's name there. Somehow it didn't seem to fit. The finality of her death has not quite hit home yet. I wanted her to be beside me, as she had been on so many previous occasions. But today there was a space beside me but a name on the gravestone. It is too unsettling to share the photo of the gravestone here but this is a general photograph of the churchyard.

In another way it was deeply comforting to have my Mum acknowledged and in such a peaceful place in the area she was brought up and amongst so many family members who have died over the years. It of course seemed strange to know that some of the gravestones, of great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents would have been seen by my Mum when she was a child. And now she has joined them

Rest in peace.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Randy Pausch

In my post on 29 March, I put in an extract from a talk given by Randy Pausch who at that stage knew he had only a few months to live. I hope this is still running on YouTube and therefore still available on my blog.

There were two things he said which were really so hopeful and so uplifting. Randy died a couple of weeks ago and this is therefore a good time to repeat them. They need no embellishment.

'Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted'

'Luck is where preparation meets opportunity'

Thank you Randy for those two great thoughts. And rest in peace.

Monday, 1 September 2008


Today is 1st September. I always feel that as soon as we hit September, something changes. The 1st September is the start of the end of summer and a sign that autumn is just round the corner. Except of course that this year we didn't have much of summer. Where were the hazy, crazy days? Nowhere to be seen. And now the mornings are getting darker, the evenings are getting darker. No more shorts and tee shirt. Bring out the jackets and woollens. Switch on the heating.

But I mustn't get too down about it. On Wednesday I head for Scotland and at the end of the month I head for a few days in Spain. So I am lucky really.