Baskers World

An inspiring time

Last time I updated this blog with the randomness of my life was quite a long time ago around on the 12th of January, nearly 3 weeks ago.

Why as it taken so long? Well because it’s been absolute chokka. In a nutshell I’ve been;

  • Sick with the cold
  • A weekend up in Manchester
  • A new BW Developer hired
  • Project Meetings on the Clear Line of Sight Project, implications for DfT
  • Yet more Management Information Workshops
  • Attended a BCS workshop on Women in IT
  • Gave up my weekend to attend the UKGov Camp in Google HQ on a Saturday, which was an ‘unconference’
  • Drinks and Dinner with my new IE Account Manager
  • Been to Swansea and back for yet more meetings with our Shared Services about Financial Year End
  • Actively lobbying my Communications Directorate on Social Media & Networking in DfT
  • Had a ‘Tweetup’ with @WatfordGap
  • Attended yet another conference on Government IT and Operational efficiency
  • Met up with friends for drinks

So as you can see… there’s been a lot crammed in, and I’ve only now on this Saturday afternoon felt like my feet have finally touched the ground. It’s hard to believe that given that it’s going to be February in a couple of days and this is my first weekend that I’ve had free to myself.

But there we go. It’s better than being bored and stuck in a rut with the monotony of life.

So, last time I did an update I was curled up in bed suffering with cramps…. ewww.. not so chipper. But, luckily with these things it only usually lasts a day at most and I was up and about, ready for work.

Wednesday 13th of Jan

And here’s were the story will begin.

I’m up, dressed, off to the office and playing catch up with a backlog of e-mails that date back to the 22nd of December when I was last in the office. It was great to be back and meet up with my team, and a new member of my team Greg who joins us as our new VBA/SQL developer looking after our FinCo application – which is basically an Excel based app that takes data from my CASSy system and the BW Output at monthend to produce the DfT Board Report, and of course the necessary output files that my team needs to load into the HM Treasury COINS system to fulfil our monthly statutory obligations in Financial Reporting.

So, there I was getting back into the swing of things when my sinuses start filling up. And when I say filling up, it was earth shatteringly painful.

By 3pm, my eyes are puffing up. My face aches. My head is pounding. Even my balance is a wee bit dodgy. That’s the warning signs of a heavy head cold, and I’m beat. I head home, slowly, carefully… almost fainted outside the office, but I do eventually head home slowly, popping into the Chemist to stock up on Lemsip capsules, sachets, sinus sticks etc and have an early night.

Thursday & Friday

I spent those two days sneezing and snotting for Great Britain. Bloody hell, how much snot can the human body create? I wasn’t sure but it felt like I was going for a World Record. Thank god for Ocado and on-line shopping.

In my self imposed exile I order more drugs, food, toiletries….. trying desperately to improve my snottyness so that I’m at least somewhat better for Saturday, because I’ve already bought and paid for the train tickets and hotel in Manchester for a girlie weekend with Allison & Karen.

During my exile I also took the opportunity to buy a couple of things I’d been wanting for a *long* time.

  1. Extra battery power for my iPhone. I’m getting tired of it’s crappy battery life and being left with a dead phone at the end of the night
    • and
  2. My Rabbit bum gloves! Well.. not really Rabbit bum, but nice quality Leather gloves lined with Rabbit fur so I can keep my fingers nice and toasty.

So being sick does have it’s advantages. I’m actually in to be around for the delivery of items instead of having to trapse all the way up to the Sorting Office to collect random parcels.

And I was also in for the delivery of my new topup TV box, as the old one was kapput when I returned back from Scotland. At least I get to also watch bad daytime TV whilst being sick. Sitting in my bed, surrounded by a mountain stack of snotty tissues watching Murder She Wrote and the Channel 5 afternoon movies.

The Weekend

I wake up, still feeling crap but make the call to try the journey to Manchester. Snotting all the way up on the train.

I swear, seriously, does it ever stop? I made sure I popped into Boots at Euston station to stock up on more tissues and lemsips, I do not want to be caught out up in Manchester with no meds.

But I actually had a cracking time up there, in-between all the sneezing and snotting. I met the girls in a pub, we did lunch (after I’d checked into the hotel and lay down for a bit feeling a bit weary) in a Pizza Express

and even a snotty me…

complete with snotty tissue

then back to the pub to meet up with Allison’s new man. And it just so happens to be a pub that I used to drink in a long, long time ago when I used to live up in Manchester

We do drinks, Allison and her man disappear leaving Karen and I to finish up, have a wee wander through the city centre and we end up in a pub near our hotel and see a rather, rather strange looking man dressed up as a Neko. Yup, a Neko…. well a bloke with a tail, furry hair, ears etc….. and whether he realises it or not, he’s being leashed to the radiator.

Uh huh…. Nowt as strange as folk.

We head back to the hotel, hook up with Allison and head out again for a Curry. In what can only be described as the strangest curry house in Manchester I’d ever been in.

Can we order drink?


But they’d give us a drink on the house.



But I could have a Brandy.

White Wine for Allison?


But she could have a Red Wine.

Err… yeah…. the food was… uhm… different… the drinks? Well… uhm…  Lets just say we left there and headed to the pub to meet up with Allison’s fella for a few more drinks. By this time I’m really struggling, even with the tonne load of Lemsip in my and decide to leave the group and go back to my hotel leaving the girls to go clubbing in Canal Street. I stop off in the hotel bar for a quick Margarita in the nice, quiet, chav free Hotel bar

After sufficient time to chill, it’s time to get a large Whisky which I take upstairs, add in my Lemsip sachet, hot water and sugar for a Hot Toddy before bed. And boy does it taste good, as I’m quietly sipping the hot toddy gradually feeling sleepier I’m jolted back awake by a sound of thudding and screaming from next door.

The girls had returned. Allison was a wee bit worse for wear and had missed the bed 🙂 A sign of a good night out.

In the morning, it’s up dressed… even feeling a wee bit more human, looks like all the lemsip is having an effect! We check out of the hotel, and wander on up to the town square for lunch… a rather long lunch, with an awful lot of wine

a lot of wine…..

and then some more

A fantastic lunch to be had, Allison even got to meet up with her man again, and off we headed back down to London on the train…. with of course another bottle of wine, and the girls enjoy chatting to a young squaddie who was sitting opposite me, trying to get his Commanding Officers to come out to the pub tomorrow evening.

Once we arrive back at Euston we quickly depart our ways as the girls were heading to Charring Cross to catch their train and I hop into a taxi to take me home. Tired, less snotty, but a cracking weekend. I was looking forward to unwinding, relaxing, being back home in my own bed and then I get a text from Karen…

“Allison just fell down the escalater”

“OMFG is she okay?”

“Yes, man behind caught her. She’s lost her train ticket and oyster card though”

All is well, that ends well 🙂


And it’s back to the office. I’m in earlier than my usual time as I have Neil and Simon from Shared Services visiting today. Simon is the new BW developer that’s been brought in to take care of the DfT Corporate Infocube in BW and ensure it works properly, developing any new BW reports we need and get them through the whole change control cycle.

My day is filled with meetings, Project Team meetings on Clear Line of Sight seeing where the Dept is in terms of it’s readyness for the go-live on the Budgeting Framework on the 1st of April, also catch ups with my peers and Deputy Director on what the burning issues of the week are and was there anything I needed to be aware of? Just the usual business as usual issues that seem to be on the horizon;

  • Month End
  • CLoS
  • Shared Services
  • Spring Supplementaries
  • Main Estimates

And it would seem, I also have a new Finance Director. The 5th one in under 3 years.  We’ve had numerous FD’s, interim, seconded, perm and none of them have lasted that long. We seem to be in a constant state of upheaval within Finance and at a time when there is so much happening within Government with OEP, our economic state, the ICT Strategy these are uncertain times and I think we are in need of strong direction and leadership if we are to survive. But with a rotating FD chair, that is rather hard to deliver.

Tuesday and Wednesday

They seemed to have blurred into one another

More Management Information workshops focusing on the Finance angle, with consultants producing lots colourful diagrams, with lots of generic terms that make it very difficult to engage because you can’t but help think that these are the same shiny glossy slides that have been used for lots of other clients. It’s also frustrating that there seems to be a lack of understanding of systems or business proesses, and we are being shown over simplified diagrams of this shiny new world.

Yes, I’m being overly cynical.

It happens when you’ve been through this several times before, which a lot of us in the room had been.

Don’t get me wrong. I want to see change, but time and time again projects like this fail because the people in the business are paid lip service. This isn’t about implementing yet another system to solve our problems. If we want the *real* change, then we need to change the culture of the organisation and agree to a common business process across the Civil Service….. but we dont. We, instead make such watered down changes on a micro level that you never really get the original efficiencies and streamlined business processes that we aspired to.

Yup. I’m a cynic. I’m trying not to be. But every time I sit in these meetings my heart gets crushed a little harder.


After the disappointments of the last couple of days I try and perk myself up. Finally I think I’m getting on top of my e-mail backlog which helps to lift my sense of cynicism up a few notches and I also have another reason to feel a wee bit chipper today as I’m going to a talk in the evening.

“Tomorrows Women, Tomorrows World” about women in IT. A profession that has a 80/20 split of men to women, which is worrying, but what is even more worrying is that there is an alarming number of women leaving the profession in their 30’s, and senior positions and not coming back.

It was a panel debate, with questions from the floor and from the live Twitter feed #bcstwtw . Whilst the debate was interesting, I don’t think I actually came away from the debate with any answers to those problems. I don’t agree that it’s all about getting people with computing degrees, any profession benefits from having people from diverse backgrounds, and having teams that have a mix of people from various backgrounds and sexes.

  • I think we need to broaden the appeal of IT to those not from an traditional IT background.
  • Educate – Does this start at Primary school level?
  • make a push for more flexible working arrangements for those that can’t work a strict 9 to 5 day.
  • Diversify the teams, aim for a stronger gender balance

That’s just my thoughts on the matter. I think that perhaps we’ve only scratched the surface of debate here and perhaps we need further events like this to explore it further.

Friday, Saturday & Sunday

The head was a wee bit sore today after the BCS drinkies last night, but it’s straight back into the office. Meetings, meetings, mails etc… the usual story, just working through the business as usual things that come to test my patience, but don’t let it get to me too much as tonight it’s a quick couple of drinks with Tim before I head off to my ‘un-conference’ pre-drinks.

Being honest, I was rather nervous about this.

I’d never met these people before, I’d only ever ‘Tweeted’ to them on Twitter. Hell, would I even recognise them? It was a nervous couple of minutes as walked to the place, descending down the stairs in the restaurant to a crowd of people. I wasn’t nervous for long 🙂

What a cracking bunch of people. The wine flowed, the banter was plentiful. I was surrounded by lots of like minded people who had a real passion for seeing change happen in Government, and making it work smarter.  We continued on to a pub, then hotel bar and at some point I got home.

I woke up rather painfully on Saturday morning, jumped in a cab to UKGov Camp 2010 at Google HQ in Victoria. Here’s the write up. A truly awesome and inspiring time.

Again, there were more drinks after the event and at somepoint I make it home …. walking up with a big fat head on the Sunday morning, but I didn’t care.  It was an amazing time, and has truly inspired me to champion the cause back in my own Department, alongside trying to do my day job. But only after I’ve caught up on all my sleep, which is what Sundays are for 😉


It’s back into the office, bubbling with enthusiasm after my unconference at the weekend only to be thrown straight into small meeting airless meeting rooms and the same issues and problems that I face that unfortunately can’t be solved by Social Networking, but perhaps an improvement in communications and changing the way we work could be part of the solution?

I’m actually quite tired after a day back in the saddle of Finance and meetings, and was looking to go home for an early night but this wasn’t to happen. My software supplier has a new account manager to manage my Departments relations with them, and he wanted to introduce me but wanted to do it over drinks.

So off I go up to Albanach which happened to be mainly booked out for a private function – Burns night supper. Yup, Vilosh wanted to meet on Burns night in a Scottish Bar…. all wasn’t lost though. We head downstairs to ‘Doon’ for a couple of drinks, then off for dinner up in Covent Gardens. It was good to meet the new Account Manager, I hope that we’ll have a good relationship and that we keep up the good work we’ve done on the CASSy system.


Another red wine hangover. Damn that Vilosh!

I’m running late. I’m all uncoordinated and late for a meeting with the new Technical lead on the Treasury’s MI Project & COINS replacement system.

Eventually I get into the office, and it’s straight into a catch up, tossing idea’s around, looking for the way forward in how Departments could supply data to this replacement system, and how they would interact with it. As with most things, if the desire is for more information, on a higher frequency basis at a lower level of granularity then several things need to happen;

  • Departments need to be able to interact with such a system on an more intelligent and automated basis
    • Automatic uploading of Master Data and transactional changes
    • Automatic syncing of the MI System Master Data with their own DMS Systems
  • A published standard for Depts to comply to
  • Behaviours and cultures with Treasury and Depts needs to change. We need to be more coordinated, working closely with our counter parts in HR, Business Planning and Procurement
  • There needs to be supporting business processes to ensure that when we put these systems into place we are capable of supplying the data, efficiently and at the quality desired – but not at a great resource burden to the Department

I could go on at great length, but I won’t. There’s a lot to be done here, and given the economic environment that we are in, and with all the change that is happening in Government I’m going to stand back a little, and watch this space until after the election.

Once the meeting is over, it’s a quick run through the rest of my mails and off in a cab up to Paddington to catch my train Swansea.

Yet again I am off to Mordor.

Matthew eventually joins me at the hotel, we drink, we eat, and it’s off to our respective hotel rooms for sleep. Well, I tried to sleep but was rather restless and the noise outside the hotel didn’t help.



A cranky me in the morning when we met for breakfast. But a bowl of porridge soon sorts me out and we head to the SSC for our meetings….. just as well my mood had perked up a bit when they expected me to hold a meeting in a disused meeting room that also doubled as the Stationary cupboard….


But at least I got what I came for. Meetings done, and it’s back to Neath to catch the train to London and I spend the journey writing up the meeting notes while it was still fresh in my head.

Now I was planning on heading straight home, but I get a tweet from @watfordgap Did we want to do a ‘Tweetup’? …. A tweetup is where you meet someone in real life who you’ve been tweeting to…. and of course I wanted to meet up! Even if I was feeling rather tired.

Paul turns up to the pub eventually (over an hour late), but he doesn’t live in London… it’s the big city you know…. and the fact that his hotel booking got messed up at last minute doesn’t help! But we meet up, sink a few beers and have a cracking time chatting away about the world, Social Networking, UKGov Camp, life the universe and everything. It was great to finally meet him in RL.


I probably had a bit more drink than I should have because when I woke up the next morning I just couldn’t get out of bed, or be coordinated.

I was having a mare of a morning and was late (only 10mins though) for the start of the conference at the QEII centre

which was also being attended by @watfordgap. I have to say, after the inspiring un-conference at UKGov Camp last Saturday, I was finding the ‘normal’ conference style incredibly stifling and un-inspiring. I was sitting in a sea of grey haired men in suits, being talked at for the entire day with no engagement. The topics, the style of presentation was severely testing my patience.

Yes, I’ve heard all about the G-Cloud. What I wanting to hear more about was on the Operational efficiency Program and Shared Services, which was sadly lacking.

A frustrating day.

But at least I got to meet up with Tim afterwards and have a few drinks to unwind.

Friday & Today

I didn’t have any meetings, which is always a bonus! I got to meet up with an old team member David T for lunch in a pub close to the office, and after work it was drinks with Sunil & Anna which I hadn’t seen since before Christmas! And to top it up with a bonus, the pub that we met in, was also the same pub that Allison, Kate and Karen were drinking in so a good night was had.

And today? A quiet one. My first weekend to myself since the start of 2010 and I’m enjoying just relaxing and sorting out the blog.

Domestics to do tomorrow!

This entry was published on January 30, 2010 at 7:14 pm. It’s filed under Blogging, Civil Service, Cloud, Engagement, Finance, Government, ICT Strategy, Management Information, Personal Blog, Shared Services, Social Networking and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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