Monday, 20 September 2010

Thoughts for last week

Our sector has our own trade paper – Third Sector. It runs a column which charts a week in the life of a charity Chief Executive. One tries to sound worthy, hard-working, caring and business-like and possibly even humorous as well. I ticked that box a while ago but I was reminded of it when I thought back about the past week which has been a full one, both professionally and personally.

On the work front, besides planning for a board meeting and October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I have been signing off responses to numerous consultations (see CEO AMRC - Simon Denegri's blog) in between preparing for party conference season. I don’t know quite how our small (but perfectly formed) research and policy team have crammed it all in.

As you would expect our fundraising and communications teams are rushed off their feet and there will be no let up until the end of October and wear it pink. There is so much happening over the next few weeks that we have a Monday morning round-up of everything that is happening just for that week so that we can know what our colleagues are doing and how we can help. This coming Friday afternoon sees me at Hyde Park helping with Debenhams’ staff STEP ON IT - raising money with a walk.

Back to last week: it is a thoughtful time of year if you are Jewish. I grew up in an orthodox Jewish home, although we did not stick to all the letters of the law – especially regarding food! However, my father, besides being a surgeon had studied the Talmud and lived the spirit of his religion. I remember as a child when he explained to me that on the first day of the Jewish New Year the book of judgment was opened and you had till the end of the Day of Atonement (last Saturday night) to atone for your sins and ask for forgiveness because when the book was shut everything that was going to happen was written and you had no chance to change it. No, I don’t really believe that but old habits die hard and there was a lot to think about this week.

So Avram Grant did not attend the West Ham game on Saturday because he, the son of a Holocaust survivor, was respecting the Day of Atonement. I was disappointed to learn that a small percentage of the fans thought he should. There are some things more important than football – and West Ham earned their first points of the season – so there.

Nobby Stiles is selling his memorabilia from the time that England had a football team that could and did win a World Cup. Footballers in the 1960s were paid around £25 a week which was very much in line with other salaries. Clearly money doesn’t buy success.

This also coincided with the visit of the Pope and without entering into any discussion about the very real and valid criticisms of the church – there was something impressive about seeing tens of thousands of people coming together to pray rather than in anger. There were protests and that is good too – we all have a voice, which brings me onto my next thought.

My grandfather was in the Royal Flying Corps in WWI and my father served on a British hospital ship in WWII (the AMRA for history fans). This week saw the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain: then, as now, it is politicians that cause wars, not soldiers. I am only too aware that I would not be living here, safely, with the right to protest, in London today if it were not for them. If you have a spare couple of hours in London – go to the Air Force Museum in Hendon and have a look at those airplanes – how did they do it?

I was also reminded of when Winston Churchill died and was lying in state in Westminster. It was a freezing January night: we came home from work, grabbed something to eat and went to queue for five hours to walk past and pay our respects.

We all know Churchill’s comment on the Battle of Britain - “Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few”. Even more poignantly, leading blogger Iain Dale was visiting Commonwealth graves this weekend with his father and mentions the inscription on the grave of Flying Officer D Hopkinson, died aged 22, 17 May 1943 “He died to give us another dawn, for us to live all his tomorrows.”

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