Weeknote – 29th October – it got me, and I didn’t listen

So earlier this week, I opened up wordpress and wrote the following…

It finally got me. After years of managing to somehow dodge COVID, I finally tested positive first thing on Monday. I’d assumed it was just a really crappy cold on top of some epically overcommitted times (of which more shortly), but no. So I’m finally going through the whole “oh, no sense of smell” and “oh, brain fog” business that nearly everyone else had years ago and is Not Remotely News. So I’m not going to talk about that, but I am going to use this time where I’m trapped in the bedroom on my own to try and lightly catch up on the Weeknotes That Weren’t. Because the last blogpost was all the way back in late August, and it’s been quite full-on here since then. In both personal and work life.

And then the post just sat in draft form, as a vast list of bullet points I planned to expand, while I completely failed to be in a fit state to do anything about finishing it.

It’s possibly the fault of this:

Des Burkinshaw on bass and Olly Betts on drums, plus a load of my midi master keyboards in the foreground.
Des on bass and ‘Olly from Duke Spirit’ on drums – probably doing one of the Beatles numbers, as I’m not playing and had time to take this photo.

About three months ago, Des approached me asking if I’d be in a band for his brother’s wedding. “Just a few covers”. I didn’t really notice the exact timing, and also didn’t pay a ton of attention to what we were covering, but it became something of a personal car-crash, with rehearsals needing to be squeezed in the night before I was training for Mind the Product – that sort of thing. The songs also turned out to be pretty epic – “Sledgehammer”, “Livin’ Thing” etc. I had a LOT of learning, and TONS of programming to do – which I had to fit in around trips to Norwich to see Daisy in plays etc. I was running on fumes for a good few weeks trying to make everything happen. Anyway, somewhere in among rehearsing, training, and conferencing COVID finally tapped me on the shoulder. And then punched me hard in the face during the final performance on Saturday. I got home safely from Suffolk, and then just collapsed into bed for all of Sunday and Monday.

More musicians and keyboards
Peter, Simon and Tim – and I think the laptop is getting ready for that ELO moment

Ever the optimist, I had incredible hopes for all the things I was going to do with this new-found recovery time. And yes, I finally finished the dense and weighty “Push Turn Move – Interface Design in Electronic Music”. Yes, I started to understand the (Arturia emulation of an) Buchla Easel synth a bit better. But mainly I was caught between “being too exhausted to do anything” and “being too stressed about work to be able to sit back and relax”.

It’s always an odd leadership challenge, when there’s too much going on and you’re Actually Quite Ill. You want to show the behaviour you’d expect in others – to take the time to look after yourself. But you also know that doing this will basically leave everyone else doing any time-bound work you can’t do. And in some cases that won’t be “a development opportunity”, it’ll just be a big pile of “being dumped on”. So I had to walk the line of “mucking in when I felt able” and “actually getting better”. Being freelance adds even more spice to this mix.

A lot of the big pile did get cleared, yay. Sadly one thing that only I could do has definitely ended up in the “gift to my future self” category, and I know it won’t be anywhere near as good as if I’d been able to make the time. But…I also know that I absolutely overdid it. A week on, I’m not truly better, and I’m going to have to work much harder at not working harder over the next few days. It runs against everything in my being to not just try and push on through, but I have to remember this is a rare occasion this wouldn’t be wise. I’m not one of these young people that can just get it countless times and bounce back after a few days – this could have repercussions. Boo.

So I didn’t get to write the long blogpost. I didn’t read the large pile of books I accidentally ordered (as displacement activity from ordering music gear while feeling bored). I didn’t get out for walks. I didn’t practice the piano.

Because I was too tired.

I also didn’t sleep as much as should have. Because I was too stupid.

And you know what? Next week I’m planning on doing less work, and still not doing these things – so I can actually get better this time.

Four books on product management and agile teamworking.
A small subset of the books and magazines that built up by the bed this week.

So a gentler next week beckons. Where also I’m not going to have all the downside of having to be isolated from my family. That was a properly miserable aspect.

Some other notable things from the last fortnight-ish:

  • I’ve got a new coaching client. Waiting for the terms of the NDA to see if I can talk about that.
  • Should be leading some good discussions at in an interesting governmenty conference in late November – just waiting for final sign-off from the powers that be.
  • Training for Mind the Product was an absolute delight, despite having an absolutely raw throat after seven hours of talking. One of the participants said that the communications and alignment course “had given them hope”. Which makes all the prep worthwhile. Alongside Westrum Typologies and the usual favourites, a few unexpected references made onto the wall, based on converations in the room – Steven Johnson’s “Farsighted” and Blake Snyder’s “Save the Cat”. Another reason I love teaching this stuff – I always find something new.
  • I didn’t make it to the MtP Leadership Forum (because I was training), but I did get invited to the drinks afterwards (because I was training). As ever, a delightful chance to catch up with many old friends, as well as making new ones – one of my favourite meetings of the year. A few people I’d hoped to see weren’t there – but hopefully we’ll catch up another way.
  • The conference was great. Slightly poignant, as last year it was where I heard that my mother-in-law had passed away. Lovely talks from Randy Silver, Tim Harford, Keji Adegeji, Nilan Peiris and others – going to write them up at some point.
  • Hugely enjoying Tom Standage’s book “a brief history of motion” – that’s possibly also going to be at least one blog post in its own right. Chapter one, on how much we get wrong about the 5000-year history of the wheel, has already given me so much to think about.
  • Going back about a fortnight, we drove up to Norwich to see Daisy acting in a play at UEA – Char D’Angelo’s “Disco Dick”. She was just fabulous – utterly committed to quite a physical role, incredibly natural and very funny.
  • Yesterday we were back at UEA again for Minotaur Theatre’s “Shorts festival’ – to see Daisy a) in Todd Bell’s 25-minute “The Conspiracy”, where she was *completely* different but again extremely funny, b) directing a play of her own – “The Devil Wears Sensible Shoes”, set in the underworld and with staggeringly good demonic makeup.
  • And, as if that wasn’t enough time spent on the M11/A11, I also managed to sneak up to Norwich last Saturday – while the happy couple were getting married – to see Taylor Swift’s “Eras Tour” film with Daisy. It was bloody amazing, we both wept buckets, and I’m going to see it again soon if I can. Songs like “the 1” totally came into their own when performed live – I’d always liked it, but wow.
  • And of course – 1989 (Taylor’s Version) came out. And I absolutely love it. Almost exactly the same, but everywhere subtly bigger and better.
Sneaky evidence that Daisy and I made it. Note the “fire exit” sign bottom left.

What else is coming up?

  • MtP Leadership kicks off in two weeks time
  • Off to Norwich (again) to see the wonderful Baby Queen at the Riverside with Daisy. I’m also seeing her in London two weeks later – with a spare ticket if anyone wants it?
  • Penguin Cafe at the Union Chapel, with lovely Steve H.

…But I’m mainly going to try and stop for a bit – concentrate on getting better. Look after yourselves too. And maybe I’ll talk about some of the amazing other things that happened in September and October when I get a chance.

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