Welcome to my seventh review of the year, a longer read than my normal blog posts, enjoy.
Well, that was a whirl wind! A wind with rain in it; a wind with warm sunrise after the storm smells in it; a wind that at times blew directly into my face and a wind that at its best lifted me up high to swim around in a new and exciting environment that I never ever thought I would get to!
Turbulence has been an almost ever-present part of the year, but a turbulence that was necessary, the roller coaster ride that was 2019 makes for a clear vision of a year ahead!
This is 7 years in to writing my own review of the year, it started as a way to record my top 20(ish) songs of the year and then in recent years has evolved to become a place to capture the year as a memoir for the future me to be sure I really did live it.
At times this year I have been unsure if this year would actually get to be recorded but I made it, we made it! So many reflections on the decade that was have been written and published in recent days, I can’t really pause and remember me in January 2010, I can barely remember me in January 2019 if I am truly honest.
This year’s review will have to be the most personal yet, because I inadvertently turned my life upside down this year. My relationship ended, I moved house (twice), I left a job I loved for a job I was terrified of at first and now enjoy a lot. I met more new people than ever before in a 12 month period but also lost so many people along the way who still mean the world to me. I had to learn new skills, new ways of being, new responsibilities that I still have no idea if I bring the true me to almost every day.
But, I grew more in 2019 than any other year before it, I grew through knowledge, I grew through love, I grew through mistakes and through being honest about who I want to be and where I want to be now, next and forever. I now work with a group of people who mean what they do with such a passion its contagious, and at work every single day I learn something new, sometimes about me, sometimes about the work I do and more often about both.
Lets face it though, the year has been an upheaval for everyone in this country! Maybe I picked the wrong year to change everything at once, but I did and at the end of the year it’s a better place for it.
So much travel in one year, a boys trip to Prague, a work trip to Orlando, a return to Seattle; to Barcelona; to Copenhagen; to Dublin (I still miss Ireland and the people there so very much). So much fun time in London and lots of work their too. A new family holiday to Wales and a great break to the Cotswolds. Nottingham has become the landing place for the average working day but it is a city that features in my past and therefore its great to go back and experience some of the fun of being a kid in a city but this time older and just maybe a bit wiser.
Last years review was written in chronological order with a departure here and there to list the top of the pops for me, this year I am taking a leaf out of the podcast Are We Friends Yet and using their criteria for their lists; listen to, read and watch. The places to go and people to meet and experiences to have sections will just drop into the chronology as we go.
The year started like any other, January blues and a little trepidation. My head had been turned to a job that wasn’t going to be about just healthcare, an exciting role and one that would challenge me more than anything I had done before. The role was ideal for me, imagination, excitement, a culture of change and a will to challenge perceived norms. I had an immediate realisation that I was leaving the NHS!
By the time of the regular drum beat of the All Staff Meeting I knew when I was leaving and when. I know I achieved a great deal in a short period of time, I proudly stood on stage and was able to look around and know that the team were now ready to do so much themselves, a simple hand on the tiller wasn’t going to challenge me enough anymore, I needed to reward me with some new challenges and some learning time. I did stand there and know that with a lot of help I had built an amazing team. Deciding to leave your passion and what drives you and put yourself in a different headlock had an odd reaction to me personally, suddenly I wanted to evaluate everything including who I was at home and what I wanted from life.
All of this change meant that one month into the year I may as well have taken my life and thrown every element of it upside down at once.
I was able to spend time in Microsoft’s labs in Cambridge and an evening with three friends in the Ned hotel in London. I got to go to Prague with a bunch of boys and marvel at what a stag-do in 2019 is as well as seeing a city that had some beautiful parts to it and some really very odd ways of being. I did find Bistro Kaprova where I spent a whole afternoon on my own with my lap top writing stuff that later was to become the first poetry I would share widely and helped me rationalise what I wanted from my new life. Being in Orlando had me crying tears of joy and sadness on the same day, the idea of being with so many people who cared and knowing that I was leaving them for something else was significant in every moment of the month. Visiting Scotland with a bunch of trusted colleagues was fun, being let loose on stage to say what I needed to without fear was a new experience and one I relished. I know that when I get to deliver a key note I am hyper active in making sure that it works and this was heightened by the awesome creativity and bravery of @K (more on her later).
By March it was clear to the people that mattered that I was leaving, my home and my role and the most important friendship that I had ever had. I was leaving a ‘place‘ that meant a great deal to me but had become wrong for both of us but was still a terribly sad thing to do. I handled it badly but now both of us are in better places because of those moments.
I went to the annual Rewired event knowing that I had been asked to chair a whole section that looked back at heroes of the past and that I would now have chance to be on stage with some of these heroes, it was a wonderful experience to hear Gwyn, Andy and Beverley talk so openly about our shared past and certainly made me brave for the future.
April 2019 will go down as the month I survived. Leaving my role in a some what a shaken state way pushed all the wrong buttons for me. Not being really able to deliver a proper handover because of an organisational culture that didn’t put people first was so sad, I still loved the role, the team and the organisation a great deal, I had hoped leaving wouldn’t leave a bad taste in the mouth as I think i gave the organisation everything I could and really did change it in a short period of time, but also I now can reflect back on this moment in time and realise that its hard for people to let you go when they can’t see what is next, I need to be better at succession planning in the future.
And yet having a secret leaving do in my new house with the friends that cared so much on my last day in the role was a memory I will always have. But in the same month a musical highlight, a highlight of the decade for me, seeing my University hero band Corduroy play live again in a small but perfectly formed venue in Leeds was quite something, dancing and singing along at the top of my voice and removing the black dog and replacing him with a Dead Man Cat was quite something! (The reference only works really if you ‘know’ Corduroy, sorry!)
The month of May was really the summer of 2019, being able to make the most of the outside space of the new house, sharing in the cooking of huge feasts for friends that decided to drop by and beginning a new life with two new and very important people. I feel like theme of this year when I come back to it in decades to come will be one of learning a great deal.
A band I have always loved decided to land in Leeds, Crazy P came and played a very large tent in the middle of town, awesome local DJs and a wonderful band with lots of singing and dancing made for a great atmosphere. In May I also got the opportunity to visit Seattle again, Redmond the home of some of the greatest minds in this thing that we do felt so different now it was retail and healthcare being showcased, more learning and stretching of the grey matter, time to really reflect and begin to see the slight light at the end of the tunnel, although imposter syndrome was still a very strong feeling for all of the trip.
In June a small but perfectly formed gang of us decided a day in Manchester would be a good break from the norm. A proper day shopping pausing, eating and drinking, really super fun with the best friends I could ask for at a time that was still difficult to compute day to day. The month also was the chance to revisit events I have been at before; Inner City Electronic (ICE) and Field Day were both great days out for different reasons. ICE offered up the opportunity to see Nightmares on Wax in conversation and then dance to his music later in the evening. As with the previous year ICE was just as much about the various new venues to visit as it was about the new music to hear. Field Day in 2019 was a new venue for them that definitely had a wow statement with it, the drum sheds are really quite something, dancing to Black Madonna, Diplo, Channel Tres and others was a lot of fun. Channel Tres is one of those moments in music that confuses me; to me this man should be huge, should be the next big thing and ought to be on the cover of every magazine, and for some reason he is still a secret super star.
Whilst we are on the subject of music; here goes with the list:
|Silence – Grace Carter||Too Much Fun – Sea Girls|
|Scream – Illyus & Barrientos||Rocket Fuel – DJ Shadow|
|Don’t Miss It – James Blake||Someday – 6th Borough Project|
|Fool Chain – Tibasko||Walking Away From Love – Steve Mason|
|English Oak (VII) – Leon Vynehall||Move On – Mike Posner|
|Pump It Up – Endor||(It Happens) Sometimes – Jack Back|
|Someone You Loved – Lewis Capaldi||These Are Just Places – Folamour|
|Make It Better – Anderson Paak||Teenage Birdsong – Four Tet|
|SOS – Crazy P||Rich & Poor – Johnny Lloyd|
|Back To You – TSHA||Hungry Child – Hot Chip|
|Broke Boy – Ausitn Millz & Claire Ridgely||Infinitas – Shanti Celeste|
|Let You Know – Flume||Sexy Black Timberlake – Channel Tres|
|You Aint The Problem – Michael Kiwanuka||Last Bloom – Floating Points|
|Joys – Roberto Surace||Outnumbered – Dermot Kennedy|
|I’m Not Defeated pt. II – Florious||Move Your Body – Octo Octa|
|Got To Keep On – Chemical Brothers|
June was super busy. We went from Sitges to London for Field Day via some time in Barcelona. Once in London we managed to squeeze in a trip to Hide restaurant too, which again comes highly recommended for everyone, amazing food, impeccable service and a wonderful evening.
I love the work I do more and more and some of that is down to being able to deliver great things into the healthcare system from a new direction and perspective. Working with Public Health England as a collaboration with Boots and using the Very Clear Ideas methodology to create a ‘North Star’ for how the two organisations work together was a great deal of fun and the rewards that will be seen across a section of the population I hope will be significant.
Being able to introduce my partner to Nottingham became part of the year and it all started in June with a trip to the Larder on Goose Gate for Dinner, an area of the city that I have always loved with its quirky shops and the extremely important Broadway Cinema and now even a Rough Trade Records. Opening the first new format Boots store in Covent Garden was a thrill and then that night going on to one of my favourite places to eat in London the Social Eating House was a further treat even if some of the gang were a little worse for wear by the time I got there!
Once we got to July it was becoming clearer and clearer that the way the world was changing around us was having an impact on how we could be in the public domain. My partner was nominated for a huge award, gala dinner and photos of the team ensued, it was a great moment being with someone you care about so much at an amazing junction in life.
We also managed to achieve a long-term ambition of mine and visited all three of the Star Inn establishments, topping off with Star Inn the City on a beautiful summers day. The digital Health Summer School came and I was curating the future leaders track, bringing the warmth of the Pink Socks movement to the event and seeing Nick Adkins and Roy Lilley go toe to toe at the event was superb. The inspiration we as leaders in digital, in healthcare and in all that we do can take from youngsters was a theme too, with Amelia, one of our presenters, truly silencing a room full of wannabe digital leaders with her challenge to get on with making healthcare efficient, pure brilliance.
I keep coming back to the learning that 2019 landed in me, as always the reading aspiration didn’t make it as strongly as I promised myself it would do, but the ten books I have been most excited to read this year are:
|The Shopkeepers (Storefront Businesses & the Future of Retail) – Gestalten|
|The Art of Innovation – Tom Kelley|
|Play Bigger – Al Ramaden, Dave Peterson, Christopher Lochead & Kevin Maney|
|My Struggle – Karl Ove Knausgaard|
|Rebel Ideas – Matthew Syed|
|Science – Ian McEWan|
|LoveStar – Andri Snaer Magnason|
|The Book of Dust – Philip Pullman|
|Upheaval (How Nations Cope With Crisis and Change) – Jared Diamond|
|Massive Attack (Out of the Comfort Zone) – Melissa Cheman|
As always the cookbook expansion continues too with favourites being; Dishoom, Tortellini at Midnight, Midsummer House, Momofuku, Black Axe Mangal, Aska and a great book called On The Side by Ed Smith which is the perfect go to book when cooking for four tastes in food that are quite different and are evolving and changing everyday.
August came and the restart of the football season saw us able to go to the first Barnsley game of the year and our first game together. What a great game it was too, brilliant atmosphere and sunshine and a few drinks in my home town with someone experiencing all of this for the first time. As the crowds left Oakwell to walk back to the car we were full of inspiration for the year ahead, unfortunately that was a blip and subsequent performances thus far have come nowhere near close, but football as with life always has to contain hope!
Entertaining my new family was a big part of the year. A trip to Leicester and the National Space Centre topped off with a ‘super market sweep’ around Meadowhall was a great day out for all and reinforced that the little people in my life were now going to be the teachers of what life was about in 2019.
On our doorstep is the very wonderful Preston Bar, a bar that achieves so much, a people watching venue, a place to see every type of dog in the world, a place to work on a Sunday and a place to try new beers weekly, In August sitting outside there and trying the new pint of the week became a lovely way to end a day with old friends and new.
Then came a holiday to Wales. A big family glamping holiday, a chance to try out so many new adventures, bouncing in caves, climbing up castles, photography for all and a day in Portmeirion which was truly an amazing place, the colours of the buildings, the peacefulness of the place and some time writing in the sun. Caernarfon castle was amazing too, and to see the family exploring the nooks and crannies of what was an amazing castle was genuinely one of those moments when you pause and realise how small we are on this planet but how important the ‘speck of dust’ next to you is!
We launched into September knowing that it was going to be a month where we were existing for work. In two days I did three of the biggest presentations I have ever done. The faith that my leadership team put in me to be on stage as a relative new boy at the organisations annual conference was thrilling, an amazing stage shared with Claudia Winkelman who fell in love with my shoes (always a good sign!). Using autocue for the first time was terrifying but the audience seemed to think I pulled it off. I went from sunny Coventry to London to entertain in the House of Lords and try to inspire a real interest in what is next for the junction of healthcare and retail. Then dinner, then up and at them the next day to be part of a panel at the Public Health England conference, a gig that saw so much new put live on stage and a chance to begin to really describe what collaborations can do when they work. In 36 hours I had the time of my life!
But work life has to pause to have some fun parts too, we went to Nottingham to see Johnny Lloyd play his heart and soul out in a bar in Nottingham that meant so much to me as a kid. Later in the month I had the chance to bring the people I think of as the brains of the digital healthcare movement together with new colleagues and with the new CEO of NHS X, Matthew Gould, a dinner in an unassuming curry house in Whitechapel. The conversation around the table proved to me again that leadership is about the creation of relationships and finding ways to collaborate.
The last quarter of the year had some fun stuff in the diary to look forward to, after a visit to Pollen Street Social earlier in the year I was desperate to go there with my other half, we made it there to try the full experience including the guess the Ice Cream flavour game, I’m not sure my partner liked the Olive Oil flavoured desert very much though!
One of the key pieces of work I have been involved in this year is the ability to see a GP in Boots, the first of these sites went live in October, it was a thrill to be able to come up with the idea and make it so and then see the reaction to it and I can’t wait to work on this more in the next year, after all if it takes on average 14 days to get a GP appointment the ‘normal’ way then maybe it is time for a change and a couple of minutes in Boots gives access to healthcare that is so needed to alleviate the pressures on our NHS.
A trip to Copenhagen gave us a very wet opportunity to explore the city and the galleries and the amazing fashion scene that now exists there as well as to be at the same conference and hear some wonderfully inspiring people pass on their wisdom. On the way there I was able to listen to the new Floating Points album which I think is perhaps the best album of the year. Once we got back to the UK we had the chance to see Hot Chip in one of my old haunts as a kid, Rock City. The band blew the doors off the place, the encore being a version of Sabotage that was simply stunning. The ability to just drop into sunny Oakwood and visit a bunch of different restaurants and bars must never be lost on us, a hot favourite from this part of the year was Hessian, highly recommended as a place to eat healthy small plates and drink lovely wine watching rush hour melt away and peace come to the high street of the village.
The end of October gave us the chance to hit a lovely hotel for the weekend in Nottingham, see the forest, re-enact Robin Hood, swim, sauna, eat amazing food (Annie’s Burger Shack, wow!), visit caves and see statues and shop (too much!) But when the two small ones say can we then I have learnt its always good to say yes…
November was meant to be a quieter month as we had one hell of a Christmas planned, that didn’t quite go to schedule with gigs from the Chemical Brothers and Primal Scream allowing us to dance the nights away remembering what it ‘used’ to be like! The regular visit to Barcelona and the Gartner Symposium was as good as it always is, learning and seeing old friends again was so life reaffirming. It took until November but at last it felt like the new me was winning and getting on top of everything.
TV and Films haven’t been as big a part of the last year as normal, I guess the priority changes when you work away more and when there is a family that wants to be involved in what you watch, yet again though the list is perhaps a little swayed towards me as a teenage boy…
|John Wick – Chapter 3||Once Upon A Time In Hollywood|
|The Avengers: End Game||When They See Us|
|Rocketman||Angel Has Fallen|
|Blinded By The Light||Star Wars : Episode IX – The Rise Of Skywalker|
My promise to myself next year is to try to watch a bit more TV that is meaningful, I’ve fallen into the habit of watching ‘just what is on’ particularly when away from home and I am going to stop doing that, although Gogglebox will now always be a go to laughter moment and something new to me this year. If I had to pick one film to be at the top I would say it was Blinded By The Light, a truly life affirming film but with lessons we really shouldn’t still be learning.
Going back to places you have been before is always a debate but a reservation at Man Behind the Curtain in Leeds was on the cards, and it was amazing yet again. Different than any time before and able to put a wider smile on my face than ever before as we enjoyed every moment of the theatre that the restaurant has to offer.
The month of Christmas arrived, and the year had flown by yet with so much in it, I felt unrecognisable in my brain and certainly my life was a different place to be. A big family visit to the Ivy (and its amazing smell) for a UK birthday celebration was everything we could want it to be. Soon after we were on our way to New York City, landing at the Bowery and enjoying a feast for the senses for a week was so wonderful. A new perspective on the great city was built by re-visiting some of my favourite haunts and seeing them through a new lens and by seeing some of the city I had never been to before. Click here to read more about this bit in particular.
The same month also gave me chance to try out a new car, always exciting but in this case even more so, yes its an old mans car and everyone says so but its so much fun to drive and it really did feel like a lovely moment in time to pick it up and make it ours.
Then that most wonderful time of year arrived, I had picked up a recipe from the New York trip to NoMad and was ready for the main event. Truffle and Chicken and every trimming we could think of and it all went well, which was just awesome. Plus we managed to get tears in at least five relatives eyes as they opened their gifts, always a good sign that Christmas has worked!
Work also had a good leap at the end of December with the launch of the Reboot quiz something that in the summer had been nothing more than a twinkle in the eye and in 2020 will see one million people get access to health and wellness advice for free from within the Boots environment, on line or physical, always great to see an idea come from germ to reality.
My restaurants of the year are quite far and wide; Goose Gate Larder, the Star Inn the Harbour, Sexy Mama’s Italian, Social Eating House, Annie’s Burger Shack, Hide Above, Pollen Street, Bistro Kaprova, Hessian, Preston’s, Ishoo, Tattu, Alfresco, 28-50, Soho House Barcelona, El Nacional, Tapas 24, Empress Curry House in Whitechapel, The Star Inn the City, The Ivy in Leeds, The Standard Hotel’s restaurant, Stew and Oyster (Oakwood), NoMad NYC, Balthazars, Jefferie’s Grocery and on the last night of the year the Ox Club!
Two years ago I started to try to call out the people that had made a difference to my life and why, as I have always said this blog is for me, as my memory, and a way of putting the songs of the year out there but after a year where I needed friends around me a lot and where I made a lot of new friends this part of the blog feels more pertinent than usual. Firstly Kirsty a brave soul who I worked with in the NHS and who after some of most awful treatment in the role was brave enough to hold her head high and then head to a new role where she is still an asset to the NHS in a different and yet impactful way, creative to the degree that she is mind blowing and yet always willing and wanting to help you with an idea you may have, one of the best and most resiliant colleagues (and now firends) I have ever worked with.
Next would be two colleagues Jason and Stephen; two people who couldn’t be more welcoming, giving of their knowledge and happy to make sure that I was able to embrace what I go to work to do. Jason has a wealth of knowledge I would describe as encyclopedic and Stephen has to be one of the most inclusive leaders I have ever come across always wanting to be there to help and support. These two have made a transition that many thought would be bumpy smooth.
Molly is a friend, confident, bright spark and coach that has been there for me on two occasions in 2019 when I needed help the most and absolutely is a reason why I would recommend a coach in everyone’s life, even if you don’t formalise the position. I called Molly out last year as well, she probaly doesnt realise it but on one occasion this year she truely saved my way of life by just being her!
Tom and Dom (they sound like a comedy duo) have been there for me through thick and thin in 2019, crazy kids that have grown into wise heads, able to put a hand on my shoulder and say they disagree but that they are there for me, like Molly above I am not sure where I would be at the end of 2019 without them.
The last three surprised me in some as they jumped into my mind as I wrote this; Amelia Tickell, Ethan and Milly Moorhead, three youngsters who in different ways have taught me so much in 2019. Amelia set the challenge at the Digital Health Summer School which I think is something that we should embrace in healthcare, her confidence, charisma and gravitas were quite amazing on stage and I think we may have witnessed a leader of the future truly stretching their wings.
Finally Milly and Ethan; the family I am now part of. As I reach the end of 2019 I can see that Milly taught me how to enjoy life through the eyes of a young person and Ethan has tried to show me the responsibility that you need to hold close as you become what a friend calls a ‘blended family’. These two characters have changed me so much and as we launch into a new decade I can see how life will evolve and change in new ways that will teach all of us new things but fill every day with new joy.
So, that was 2019, probably the biggest year of my life so far!
Preparing for the year at the end of 2018 I said I would be “looking up, smiling and being part of the team” Well that wasn’t quite how it all panned out in reality! In 2020 I want to be able to pragmatic to change, I want to be there to support people, I want to apply the lessons I have learnt in life to who I am every moment of every day. I want to be there for the people that need me, be present and in the room more.
New years resolutions need not be ‘just’ about couch to 5k and eat less red meat, they need to be equally about minding the most important muscles we have, our heart and our brains.
2020 needs to be a calmer year where as a new family we focus on each other and on the ‘job’ in hand. We love where we are now and I am certain we can build life on that foundation, a life that will make 2020 the clear sighted year it lends itself to being. 2020 is a new decade; for me I am renewed full of energy and ready for the challenge of life and how everyday should have smiles in it.
In the words of the poet, rockstar and guru in life Richard Ashcroft from the Verve classic A New Decade…
The radio plays the sounds we made
And everything seems to feel just right
Coming through your lonely mind
Well I’ve seen things
That scarred and bruised and left me blind
So come on, listen along with me
I think you need a little company…
If you’re looking for me
Then I’m looking for you
If you’re looking for me
Then I’m looking for you
Heres to the new decade, heres to the new life, this one is for every special person in the world and tonight one of those people in particular…
I’m looking for you every day….