Only 7 Sleeps To Go………..!

I know just how he feels!
I know just how he feels!

………..Christmas fever has well and truly arrived chez moi! The first sign that it’s really here is my daughter’s Christmas list  – however as that starts to be compiled around the end of October (!!), the second sign is the key one in our house – and that is of course getting the decorations out of the garage!

This is a lovely family tradition is a ritual humiliation of…..

……………my lack of DIY skills (sawing off bottom of Christmas trees – takes me about 4 hours to do with a blunt, undersized and rusty hacksaw!)

…………….my complete inability to do anything which requires ‘an eye’ for a straight line (roof lights sort of follow the line of the house but they deviate off-centre at the parts where all five foot six of me, precariously stood atop the tallest ladder I’ve got, can’t quite reach the apex of the pointed roof on our house front… I just chuck it over the apex and hope for the best!!)

………… lack of taste and understanding of colour schemes (I was the man who had a Tartan Christmas tree when I was a bachelor!)

……………and my complete inability to get organised and plan ahead for anything (hence frequent trips back and forward to Homebase/BandQ/Garden Centre for replacement lights, then bulbs, then four-way sockets, and then batteries!)

At This Point On Christmas Day, My Mother Would Say - "You'll Have Grown Into That By The Summer!"
When I Was A Kid, At This Point On Christmas Day, My Mother Would Say – “You’ll Have Grown Into That By The Summer!”

It is the definite marker of the festive season starting in earnest in our house. I’m at least through that weekend ……..scarred, bloodied, bent and beaten yes……….but I’m alive!!!

Now I’m looking forward to standing panic-stricken in Lakeside Shopping Centre on Christmas Eve thinking “what size is she again?”, followed by all my gifts being opened on Christmas Day to the accompaniment of “that’s nice…..did you keep the receipt?”.

And yet despite all the above trials and tribulations (feel sorry for me yet?!), I love Christmas. My daughter still gets the magic of it – though she’s only just hanging in there, so I plan to make the most of it! So 12 sleeps to go and counting… Christmas decor ordeal over it’s all downhill from here – can’t wait!

Duke of Edinburgh Scheme

A couple of weeks ago, Claudette and Sarah Alderman were invited to St James Palace as part of the Duke of Edinburgh awards. They were there to watch 5 of our Sutton young people receive their Gold Award – a phenomenal achievement! The DoE programme is a real success story in Sutton – from low beginnings Sarah has worked with others to now get it to a place where it is one of the best schemes in London. And on the back of that success we are hopeful of another invite to the Palace in the Spring as we have more Gold Awards on the way! And you never know, I might get an invite myself next time! (I was about to add “stranger things have happened” to that last sentence – then I realised I actually couldn’t think of any!)

Official Opening Of The Quad

At the end of November, Sutton’s Mayor, Councillor Sean Brennan, carried out the official opening of the Quad! Even though all the teams in Claudette’s service have been in the building since Septemer, it was still good to see it officially declared open. It was a great way to showcase the facility but even more importnatly it was a great showcase for the work done by all the teams in Claudette’s service – it’s when I went from room to room, talking to people, that I fully appreciated just how much you all do and just how well you all do it! And at the Quad I had this lovely experience with the added bonus of the wafting aroma of food from the kitchen. Best of all though was to talk to some of those who we support – I got to speak to one parent who said I sounded just like her Dad (we Glaswegians stick together) and a couple of parents who’d started getting support from us and had gone on to support others. It reminded me – for all the data and stats we might produce, nothing can ever say more about the difference we can make for people than people themselves!

Strange Things On The Underground Part 35 and 2/3!

……A couple of weeks back I got on the Victoria Line at Oxford Circus in the middle of the rush hour. The train didn’t look that busy but it seemed to take an inordinately long time to get on – but it was only when I got inside that I understood why! For there was a bloke, casually reading Metro, middle of the carriage, accompanied by……a chest of drawers!!!! Talk about travelling light! I had this idea that he was off on holiday, couldn’t be bothered to take stuff out of the drawers at home to pack in a bag and then unpack to different set of drawers in his hotel so he just thought ‘What The Hell, It’ll Be Easier to Take The Drawers Too!”. For safety’s sake I haven’t reported this at home – I had visions of me at Gatwick with a wardrobe on my back come the summer!

Exec Heads Are So Overworked They Sometimes Cant Get Everything In Their Briefcase!
Exec Heads Are So Overworked They Sometimes Cant Get Everything In Their Briefcase!

Back To The Floor

Week before last I spent a day with June Webb in the Youth Offending Team, getting an insight into the work of the YOT and how they support oyung people. It was a fascinating insight for me into both the work and the systems that surround it. For different reasons I’ve had to reschedule planned visits to spend time in JAS and in one of our Children’s Centre’s. But am looking forward to both in 2014, as well as previously planned visits to Positive Activities for Young Poeple and the Youth Service.

My thanks to June for patiently talking me through every aspect of her day and for answering all of my inane questions!

Families Matter

The Families Matter team have now transferred across and have become part of our division. There have been good links between the team and other parts of our services since its inception. More recently Mario, one of the ATM’s in Families Matter has been working in our new Multi-Agency Locality Team pilot and now the team have formally shifted across from the Chief Executives Directorate. Denise is the Families Matter Team Manager and she’ll be reporting in to Jackie.

Nostalgia and Arthritis

I’ve had a few nostalgia sessions in recent weeks. I went to watch first Hue and Cry and then last week to see Deacon Blue. Now at this point only those of us of a certain age will have any idea what I’m talking about! Anyway I went to see Deacon Blue and they were great – but the audience was a revelation! I’m usually the oldest person at most gigs I go to – at this one I was one of the younger ones! But best of all were the conversations in the bar beforehand – I heard of at least two knee ops and two hip replacements! Inside I sniggered – but paid for it as by the end of two hours of jumping up and down my arthritic old knees were in agony! And as you read this, if there are smug, younger staff around you, don’t worry – it’ll happen to them too one day!

Col Denied That His Love Of The Stones Stemmed From Them Being The Olny Band Alive Older Than He Was!
Col Denied That His Love Of The Stones Stemmed From Them Being The Only Band Alive Older Than He Was!

Youth MP and Deputy Youth MP

The elections for these were help last month and the results confirmed a couple of weeks ago that the new Youth MP will be Cameron Clark, currently a pupil at Cheam High, and the Deputy Youth MP will be Vishwa Periasamymanjula, currently a pupil at Sutton Grammar. Last week, I met both of them with Ingrid Bard, who has been doing much of the Youth Engagement work while we’ve been recruiting staff for these roles. We plan to get them much more involved in the work of CYPLD from now on and we will also be looking at how we support them with their personal and national YMP priorities.

Christmas Giving In ISYP

The staff in ISYP decided that rather than send each other Christmas cards this year, they would bring in non perishable items of food instead. The service already refers a lot of families to the Food Bank Service and at this time of year, some families within Sutton can struggle even more than they might otherwise due to the Christmas period and the financial burden this can put on families. The staff there thought it would be good if they could give something back to the service as well as helping vulnerable families within our local area. They collected a large amount of goods which they delivered to the Salvation Army for the Sutton Foodbank. It was gratefully received by staff and we know that it will go to the families that need it the most. The Parenting Plus Service were also able to obtain some lovely Christmas gifts for some of the children we work with and they got that great feeling from being  one of Santa’s little helpers making the delivery to families. It was a great idea and a very generous act – thanks to all staff that contributed. It’s already made me think that if the ISYP do it again next year, I’ll happily join in and I know all of you would too!

Twitter Question Time

I was one of four panelists last Wednesday evening for Sutton’s first ever Question Time through Twitter! I was joined by Chris Parker from the voluntary sector, Simon Parker from Local Govt Network and Cllr Dombey who is Leader of the Council. It was a great experience and apart from the odd technical glitch here and there it was really enjoyable. I think we will have learned a lot from doing it and hopefully we will do it, or something similar, again in the future! I’m struck by how few of you seem to be on Twitter – either that or you just avoid me like the social media plague! But if you are not on it, I really do recommend it. It’s quick, easy free and you don’t have to tweet at all – regardless of whether or not you want to say something. So I’d strongly encourage you to sign up for a Twitter account – it’s easy, free, you can get it on your Smartphones and iPads and you never know, you could be one of my fifty followers or one of the fifty million followers of Harry Styles of One Direction!

And Finally……..

……………………I’m a book lover as some of you know. My other blog is all about books (mainly) – if you are also a book lover you can find it and my reviews at if you’d like to write a review of a recent book you have read and enjoyed – or read and detested – send it to me and I’ll publish it on my blog as a “guest review”!)

One of the things I enjoyed in my last job was that there was a Children’s Services Book Club. We met monthly over lunch/coffee to talk about an agreed book we’d all read and to decide the next one. I miss that book club – so as there isn’t one here, I thought I might start one. If you are interested let me know through the comments box and I will set it up in the New Year. If you have never been in a book club before but like books take the plunge – it’s a good way of finding things to read you might not otherwise have tried! It doesn’t take masses of time (about an hour once a month and it’s always good to spend time talking to fellow book lovers!

And Finally, And Finally………

……………………..It’s of course full on Christmas shopping in our house. My daughter has suddenly gone from little girl to a practicing to be a teenager overnight! Couple of weekends back her and her mum decided to go shopping – I got ready to accompany them. When they saw me dressed, ready to go my daughter begged me NOT to go! “Oh that’s sweet!” I thought. “They are obviously planning to shop for gifts for me”. Just as I sat down having agreed with a knowing smile that I wouldn’t join them after all my daughter seemed to read my mind (which is scary in itself as I thought I only had her mother to contend with on that score!). She fixed me with that stare that the women in my house specialise in and said “And just in case you think we are going shopping for gifts for you – we’re not! It’s just that you always look miserable standing outside shops and you spoil it for us – it’s just more fun without you!” I was about to answer back when I caught my partners eye and her own knowing smirk – and when it’s 2 v 1 in our house I know when I’m beat! I said nothing (well not until  heard the car drive away!)

And The Absolutely Final, And Finally

…….This will be the last blog update before Christmas. I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you all for the work and commitment you’ve put in this year. We have done a lot of good things and that is down to you, your professionalism and your willingness to make a difference. Whatever time off you get with your families over the next couple of weeks I hope you get time to relax and enjoy it.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a happy and Prosperous New Year. To celebrate the festive season, I put together this little film of Christmas wishes from Claudette, Nigel, Jackie and I. I hope you enjoy it!