I am back from my holidays.
I left to travel across the big lake on a high - Brook's awards dinner and conference were both a massive success. All of the feedback was really positive and the event felt good. I was so proud of all the staff across Brook and the work they are doing everyday to make a difference to young lives. I also left with slight trepidation and a nagging doubt as to whether the CEO should go away for four weeks. We had planned and organised everything so it would be fine, but i still left wondering (hoping?) whether I truly was indispensable. Surprise, surprise, I am not! The team did brilliantly and thrived whilst I was away. It has helped to improve decision making, confidence and team working. I may need to do it again soon for the sake of my teams professional development and team cohesion.
After a mammoth journey I arrived and spent a day in Sydney with one of my dearest friends. He recently emigrated to Australia which I always imagined I would at some stage. As I have got older I am not sure I would want to be on the other side of the world from my family and friends. Who knows, maybe one day. He has found it tough to settle and meet friends like those in the UK and so it was gorgeous to have a day playing together in the sun - eating fish and chips, drinking cold beer at Sydney Harbour.
Later that day I travelled to New Zealand to see other friends and my darling god son who is 30 months old. I was so excited to see him again i thought I was going to burst. Burst I didn't, but squeal i did as he grinned the biggest grin and gingerly edged over to me, giggling and putting his head at all sorts of funny angles to get a different view of me and his Auntie Nix. We camped in a remote remote remote part of the North Island by a stream. Our wash basin was the stream which is very cold. A good cure for sorting out a fuzzy head the day after lots of wine, lots of laughing and lots of story telling.
Needless to say we had lots of happy times and coming back to England after four weeks has actually been quite tough. Maybe I could be happy not working after all?
Some things i learnt;
In New Zealand they call the R U Ready? work 'Only when you are ready'. I really like the different tone of that statement. It is a gentle and strong statement with an expectation of readiness contained within it. I prefer it to R U Ready?
I had a traditional Maori welcome, where I stood nervously, unsure what was going to happen until the nose rubbing bit which made my nose tickle! We had an exciting swapping of practice with an organisation working with the Maori communities. Their traditions of telling stories, rituals and listening to each other, provide a fabulous opportunity to use group work approaches effectively. They are doing some really interesting work using drama.
We went to see a play in New Zealand about an abusive relationship between a 12 year old and an adult man. The play was set 10 years on after the man had been to prison and was rebuilding his life under a different name. The 12 year old, now an adult finds her abuser and the play centres on a powerful dialogue exploring the complexities of love, life, abuse and relationships. I know what I think about abuse, abuse of power and about right and wrong. Yet this play challenged my clarity and I had to talk about it for a long time with my friend to sort it all out in my head again. Good Theatre.
Onto Sydney and Mardi Gras. I couldn't really see anything as we got to the parade too late so we watched it on a screen. It was really quite remarkable to see such a celebration of diversity and sexuality. The dykes on bikes were divine to watch. I did almost cry when I saw the people marching who had set up Mardi Gras in 1978. Their parade banner '1978 - 2008 and still Out and Proud'. What brave brave people and how different it must feel for them in 2008 - a joyous event, as opposed to the fear that would have been hanging over them during the first march.
There was a remarkable moment when a young lad from the UK stood next to his girlfriend who was stood next to me said 'I don't mind the lezzies, but I can't stand the ***** poofs. I was shocked and wondered if I had truly heard right. But his girlfriends response confirmed I had. So with a smile/grimace on my face, i suggested there was never a place for homophobia but Mardi Gras was probably the most stupid place to be publicly homophobic and could they kindly think about moving on. They didn't stay much longer.
I also saw some great materials;
ACON which is a community based organisation in New South Wales has produced a campaign called 'Together We Can'. Each poster addresses a different issue such as keeping safe; reducing stigma, preventing HIV; and managing alcohol and other drug use.
FPA New Zealand has produced a leaflet called Is this Love? about love and power which has been adapted and published by the FPA UK www.fpa.org.uk. I recommend it.
Family Planning Queensland has produced a children's story book 'Everyone has got a bottom' which helps parents and carers teach children the proper words for penis and vagina and emphasise keeping safe www.fpq.com.au
Finally my holiday reads that are worth a mention;
Anita Roddick's book Business as Unusual is a good read - inspiring and motivating leaders to run businesses in different ways.
Ewan McGregor's tale of travelling from John O Groats to South Africa is an inspiring tale of living a dream and the power of challenge. I was also seriously impressed by the sensitivity and honour with which they tell their stories of visiting villages and projects on behalf of UNICEF.
Lori Lansens book 'the girls' which is a novel about conjoined twins. It is a fabulous story of identity, love, sex, desire and commitment.
And if Priscilla Queen of the Desert comes to the stage in the UK which it is rumoured to be, go watch it. A feast of colours, outfits and discotastic songs.
I can go on forever about the trip, but thats it for now.