February 4, 2016
My book of the month for January is ‘Margaret Thatcher: The Authorised Biography, Volume One’ by Charles Moore. I am about to start on the second volume. I became aware of politics in the late seventies and thought I’d understood the Thatcher period pretty well, but I have learned an enormous amount from the detail in this work. I’ve also read ‘Submission’ by Michel Houellenecq. This is a controversial novel that imagines what France would be like if someone called Muhammed Ben Abbes was elected as President and Islamic law came into force.
My daughter has told me that she wants to give up her job. Further, she doesn’t have another job to go to. She has developed ‘a passion for mental health’ and will re-train to become a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist (CBT). Quite a change from a well-paid job in a recruitment company in central London! My first feeling was concern. I thought about trying to persuade her against the idea. Then I realised that actually she should do what she feels passionate about and I should not attempt to impose my own, probably old fashion, views on career progression onto her. I decided to read up on the subject. I found myself being inspired to learn more about Psychology. The other day I was reading an undergraduate text book on Biological Psychology!
During the past two years many of our staff have experienced change, for a range of different reasons: some because of budget cuts, others because of changing needs and others because of technological progress. Change can be difficult, both for those who have to implement it and for those who are the subject of it. One of my objectives this year is to meet with all groups of staff that have experienced significant change. I want to hear, directly from staff, what we’ve managed well and also what we need to do better. I’m aiming to do one of these meetings each month. My purpose is to learn and improve.
January 6, 2016
My book of the month for December is ‘Gaza – a history’ by Jean-Pierre Filiu. This is an excellent book that tells Gaza’s history in well researched detail and tries hard to be as objective as possible in describing the Arab-Israeli conflict. I’ve also enjoyed reading ‘Liar Moon’ a historical crime novel by Ben Pestor. I’d read this author’s latest novel in the summer and liked it so much that I’ve decided to read her other books too. Just before Christmas we went to see ‘Hangmen’ by Martin McDonagh at the Wyndham’s Theatre in Leicester Square. It was really funny and interesting with excellent performances.
I am really impressed by the local police in north London. In the summer I had my number plates stolen in front of my aunty’s house, while visiting her. I reported this and, by coincidence, the police officer assigned to my case had suffered from the same crime. He warned me that there’s very little chance of catching the criminals: his case wasn’t even investigated. Well, in December I had a call from this officer to inform me that there’d been a breakthrough. I was really surprised that they were still working on this at all. It seems mine was one of several number plate thefts and these criminals were using them for different crimes. My number plates were used for the least glamorous of their crimes: to fill a tank of petrol. But they slipped up on one of the more serious crimes. The officer wanted to let me know that my reporting had made a difference.
The financial settlement for local government was better than we were all expecting. You can speculate about the reason but (a) whatever the reason, the outcome is welcome and (b) the reason isn’t that the public sector austerity is over: it’s been slowed down for a year. Nevertheless, the settlement does give us a year when we don’t have to make any more cuts than we’ve already made and we can concentrate on delivering the council’s priorities. That is definitely a better way to start a new year than the last two years.